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subsistence of my wife and children, it is
my advice and desire that they never cease
to demand and use proper means for the
attainment of it. For this purpose I ask
the assistance of wise and good men, to aid
my injured family in necessary measiures to
obtain justice."



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TOPICS OF THE TIME.



THE MARRIAGE KNOT.



I KNOW a bright and beauteous May,

Who knows I love her well;
But if she loves, or will some day,

I cannot make her tell.
She sings the songs I write for her,

Of tender hearts betrayed ;
But not the one that J prefer,

About a country maid.
The hour when I its burden hear

Will never be forgot:
"O stay not long! but come, my dear,

And knit our marriage knot!"

It is about a country maid —

I see her in my mind;
She is not of her love afraid,

And cannot be imkind.
She knits and sings with many a sigh,

And, as her needles glide,
She wishes, and she wonders why

He is not at her side.
*' He promised he would meet me here,

Upon this very spot:
O stay not long! but come, my dear,

And knit our marriage knot!"



My lady will not sing the song.

"Why not?" I say. And she.
Tossing her head, " It is too long."

And I, "Too short, may be."
She has her little willful ways;

But I persist, and then,
"It is not maidenly," she says,

" For maids to sigh for men."
"But men must sigh for maids, I fear;

I know it is my lot,
Until you whisper, 'Come, my dear.

And knit our marriage knot!'"

Why is my littie one so coy?

Why does she use me so?
Fm not a fond and foolish boy

To lightly come and go.
A man who loves, I know my heart.

And will know hers ere long.
For, certes, I will not depart

Until she sings my song!
She learned it dl, as you shall hear,

No word has she forgot:
"Begin, my dearest." "Come, my dear.

And knit our marriage knot!"



TOPICS OF THE TIME.



Tht Ceotennial.

All good Americans are looking forward to the
passage of the year 1876 with great interest; and
It is not to be denied that they are animated by a
new hopefulness. The financial failures that occur
do not depress business circles as they once did.
There is a belief that we have seen the worst, that
it is well that the rotten houses should go down,
•■d that we shall, practically, start, during our Cen-
tennial, on a new and prosperous national life.

Of a certain kind of business there will undoubt-
edly be more done during the year than ever before.
The passenger traffic on the railroads will be im-
mense. All the West is coming East. All the
men and women who have been desiring through-
out their lives to visit the Eastern coast, yet have
never found the occasion for such an expenditure
of time and money, will come to the great Exhibi-
tion. The thousands in Europe who have long
intended to visit America will naturally desire to
take it at its best, and they will come this year.
The Southern States will be similarly moved, and
all the lines of travel converging upon New York
and Philadelphia will be crowded. Railroads and



steamboats will do an unprecedented passenger busi-
ness, and hotels will be overwhelmed with guests.
The whole Eastern coast of the country, north of
Baltimore, will feel this great influx of life. New-
port and Saratoga, and all the lesser summer resorts
of the region, will be full. Every Englishman —
every foreigner, indeed — will visit Niagara. There
will be a tremendous shaking up of the people, a
great going to and fro in the land, a lively circula-
tion of money, and a stimulation of trade. Ameri-
cans who would otherwise go abroad will stay at
home, and spend their money at home. All these
things will conspire to give us a notable year finan-
cially, and it seems hardly possible that the improve-
ment should be ephemeral. But the hopefulness of
the year does not relate entirely to business. It is
«* Presidential year," and the great question con-
cerning the currency is to be settled, and settled as
it ought to be. The good sense of the people and
the good faith of the people will have a voice, and
the " paper lie " will go into everlasting disgrace.
The people believe that the future legislation of the
country will secure a sound currency, and that ai«
the rotten schemes of inflation, and all th# dema-
gogues who advocate them, will find a political deadi



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433



and burial. Our people feel that the year is to lead
us along politically toward a permahent cure of the
evils consequent upon living too long upon an irre-
deemable currency, and they may well be hopefuL

There is still another reason for hopefulness.
The nation is to be brought together as it has never
been brought before during its hbtory. In one
hundred years of intense industry and marvelous
development, we have grown from a few feeble col-
onies to a powerful nation of more than forty mill-
ions of people. We have been so busy that we
never have been able to look one another in the face,
except during four terrible years of dvil war. In a
friendly way, for brotherly courtesies, we have never
come together. Well, that which divided us is gone.
We are now all members of a consolidated nation-
ality, and this year, around the old family altar at
Philadelphia, we expect to meet and embrace as
brothers. We are profoundly hopeful that this year
IS to do much to cast into forgetfiilness the bitter-
ness engendered by the civil war, and to make the
nation as united and sympathetic in feeling as it is
in the political fact Of one thing we are certain, if
the South comes to the Centennial, it will receive
such a welcome as will be accorded to no guests
from any other part of the world. The glories of
the old Declaration are a part of their inheritance,
and without them, our festivals would be but a
mockery. They are the guests without whom we
cannot get along — without whom there would be
bitterness in our bread, sourness in our wine, and
insignificance in our rejoicings.

The Coming Man.

There was a very pleasant indication of a popu-
lar desire to depart from the stereotyped usage, at
the late Convention in Massachusetts whkh nomi-
nated Mr. Rice for Governor. Two or three hun-
dred delegates, unpledged and uninstructed, cast
their ballots for Mr. Charles Francis Adams. As
we understand this action, it was in noway intended
to indorse all of Mr. Adams's views of politics, or
to recognize him as a party man. It was intended
as a tribute to a statesnum, — ^incorruptible and unde-
filed,~a scholar, and a gentleman by birth, culture,
and character. It has not been often that party
men have had such a privilege as this. We do not
wonder that they availed themselves of it. To have
an opportunity to vote for the best man in the Sute
where one lives, would make a man feel clean for a
decade, but most people die without it.

But all over the country there is a popular desire
to vote for a statesman and a gentleman. Mr.
Adams does not monopolize these titles, or the sort
of manhood they represent. Though one of our
greatest and purest men, he is not our only great and
pure man. People are sick of seeing boors at the
head of affairs. People are weary of being repre-
sented by boors abroad. There is a rapidly return-
ing conviction, among the masses of the people,
that the best men ought to be in the best places,
and thatilhose places are what the best men were
made for. There is a growing popular conviction



that we have permitted ourselves to be led and
fooled for nearly half a century, in order that a set
of time-serving and self-serving demagogues might
secure office. The man who can serve his party
best, or who can make his party serve him best, is
now seen to be the man who always goes to the
head.

In the early days of the republic, we had Wash-
ington, and Adams, and Jefferson, and Madison, and
Monroe, in the Presidential chair. These were not
at all the sort of men we have had during the last
forty years. We will not name them, but we ask
our readers to pass them in review, and see how the
people of America have been imposed upon by the
party politicians. Some of these men — so insignifi-
cant were they— have sunk already into oblivion.
They never did anything in their lives to dignify
their office, and their office could not dignify them.
Hardly any objects stand oetween us and the early
Presidents, to obstruct the view. It seems all
blank, until we get back to them. John Quincy
Adams, Jackson, and Lincoln shoot up along the
track, but the long path is disgustingly low and
level. There is no denying that we have neither
put our best men in office, nor tried to do so. Grad-
ually, good men have retired from politics. They
could not remain in them and maintain their self-
respect. And now mediocrity and boorishness are
everywhere in high places.

What stands in the way of a reform ? As we are
beginning another century of national life, it is well
to ask this question and to answer it correctly. The
politicians will never favor the election of any man
to the Presidency whom they cannot use. That is
the radical trouble with that small class of Ameri-
can statesmen to which Mr. Charles Frands Adams
belongs. They cannot be usecL They will not lend
themselves to petty party schemes. They will not
submit to being pawed over, and wheedled, and
browbeaten. They cannot be held at the button-
hole by dirty-fingered office-seekers, and worried
into the bestowal of political favors. To put a first-
class statesman at the head of affiurs would amount
to a political revolution. The men about the hotels
in Washington would be obliged to wash their hands
and keep their finger-nails clean. The representa-
tives of foreign Governments would actually have
a degree of respect for ours~a very notable change.
The advantage of a republic over a hereditary mon-
archy would become more apparent than it is at
present Breeding rulers "m and in" has always
appeared to the Americans to be a very ridiculous
business ; but choosing rulers who have no breed-
ing at all, is, on the whole, a great deal worse. To
have a well-bred gentleman in the White House —
a scholar, a wise and experienced statesman, above
all trickery and all corruption, would be a spectacle
so unusual and so satisfactory, that the sun and
moon and all the stars might well stop to look at it

There has been a sort of prejudice among com-
mon people against having men who are " too fine"
in office. It is supposed, at least, that they like to
be hailed fiuniliarly by the men for whom they vote,
and that they do not favor those who do not go out



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TOPICS OF THE TIME,



of their way to curry favor. It is for this crowd
that our pet names, like "Old Abe," "Old Zach,"
"The Mill-boy of the Slashes," and "Tippeca-
noe," were invented. The attempt of the politi-
cians has been to degrade their candidates to the
point where the " intelligent voter " could get into
sympathy with him. And now we believe the
<' intelligent voter" has come to the point of intel-
ligence where he sees that this kind of talk is all
stuff*, and that it is a great deal better for him, and
for the country, that a man be in the highest office
for whom politicians do not make nicknames, — a
man who minds his own business and his country's
business, and sets the "intelligent voter" a good
example. The "intelligent voter" is very rapidly
learning that a great and good man may have more
regard for him and his interests than the demagogue
who slaps him on the back or treats him at the cor-
ner grocery.

We think we see daylight The press is becom-
ing less slavishly partisan. Powerful newspapers,
here and there, have cut entirely loose from party,
and there certainly has begun a reaction against the
disgraceful policy of the past forty years. Rings
are being broken up. Corrupt intrigues are exposed,
and there is a genuine call for better men and purer
and more dignified politics. Laus Deo/

The PricM of Books.

One of the greatest anomalies of commerce is
presented by the considerations which govern the
prices of books. If we step into a retail bookstore,
and inquire the price of a book of, say, five hundred
pages duodecimo, we shall learn that it is about two
dollars. On looking into it, we shall learn that it is
a crude novel — the product of a young girl's brains,
and of very little concern to any but girls of the
age of the writer. The next book we take up shall
be one of the same size, by the best novelist of his
language, and the price is also two dollars. We
pass along a little further, and pick up another
book, of the same cost in paper and mechanical
production, but this time it is a philosophical work.
The author is eminent, and this is the latest declara-
tion of a most fertile mind — the grand result of all
his thinking— the best summary of all his wisdom.
The price of it is two dollars. The next is a poem.
It took the author years to write it. His art is at
its best, and he does not expect to surpass it. He
gives to the world, in this poem, the highest it is in
him to conceive. His very heart's blood has been
coined into its phrases and its fancies — price two
dollars, l^ie next book examined is a collection of
the flabby jokes of some literary mountebank, and,
on inquiring the price, we find that it costs about
the same to print it that it did to print the others,
and can be had for two dollars.

Our natural conclusion is, that the quality of the
material put into a book has nothing whatever to do
with the price of it The work of a poor brain sells
for just as much, if it sells at all, as the work of a
good brain. Even when we find an extra price put
upon a book that appeals to a limited class, we learn



that the fact has no reference to the quality of the
work, or to its cost to the man who wrote it The
extra price is put on simply to save the publisher
from loss. The printer and paper-maker mast be
paid. The author is not taken into account

As the quality of a painter's work grows finer
and better, his pictures command increasing prices.
The master in sculpture commands the market He
gets such prices as he will. Quality is an element
of price in everything salable that we know of, ex-
cept books. The prices of these are raised or depre-
dated only by the printer, the paper-maker, and the
binder. Quality of the mechanical parts of the prod-
uct is considered only by the publisher. The qual-
ity of the brain that invented and elaborated the
book, the quality of the life that has gone into it,
the quality of the art which has given it form — this
sort of qnklity is not taken into consideration at alL

Authorship, though more prosperous and inde-
pendent than it was formerly, has not yet received
its proper position in the world. It was a pauper
for centuries, and still, among a large number of
book publishers and book buyers, the author is
regarded as a man whose property in a book is an
intangible and very unimportant matter. The au-
thor has nothing whatever to say about the price of
his book. He takes what the publisher, who is in
direct competition with pirates, is willing or able to
give him.

Now printing, pap)er, and binding involve pro-
cesses of manufacture, the prices of which vary but
little from year to year. They are easily calculable,
and a publisher knows within three or four cents a
copy just how much a book will tost him delivered
at his counter. He receives his books like so many
bales of cotton goo^s, or cases of shoes. Of the life,
the education, the genius, the culture, the exhaust-
ing toil, the precious time, the hope, that went to the
production of the manuscript from which the books
were printed, he takes little account. A certain ^^-
centage upon the retail sales goes to the author, and
the author takes just what the publisher says he can
afford to give him.

Well, the golden age of authorship is coming,
some time, and when it comes, the amount of an
author's royalty will be printed on the title-page of
his book. He can ask the public to pay him for
ro3ralty what he will, and if the public will not pay
him his price, then — ^the book being produced and
sold by the publisher at regular rates — the author,
and not the publisher, will be compelled to reduce
the price, by reducing the royalty. Printing and
selling books form a very simple business, that men
may pursue under the same rules that govern every
other business ; but in no way can an author get
justice until he has a voice in determining the price
of his books, and the public know exactly what
they are paying him. At present, he has no direct
relation with the public. No discriminations are
made, either for or against him. He stands behind
the publisher, and the public do not see him at all.
We see no reason why there should not appear on
the title-page of every book the pric« and the
amount of the author's royalty — showing exactly



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435



who is responsible for the price of the book, par-
ticularly if it be large. We do not think the plan
would result in the increase of the cost of books to
the public, except in instances where it ought to be
increased. This, or something equivalent to this,
will come when we get the international copy-
right. It may take the form that it does in Eng-
land, where a publisher buys a manuscript outright,
and sells his volumes at a price based mainly on the
cost of it In some way, the quality of literary
work must be recognized in the price of a book ;
in some way a literary man*s well-earned reputation
must be taken into accotmt in the sale of his pro-
ductions, or authorship must suffer a constant and
mosf discouraging wrong. We shall have the nuitter
all adjusted, by and by.

The Cure for Qoasip.

Everybody must talk about somethmg. The
poor fellow who was told not to talk for the fear
that people would find out that he was a fool, made
nothing by the experiment. He was considered a
fool because he did not talk. On some subject or
another, everybody must have something to say, or
give up society. Of course, the topics of conver-
sation will relate to the subjects of knowledge. If
a man is interested in science, he will talk about
science. If he is an enthusiast in art, he will talk
about art. If he is familiar with literature, and is
an intelligent and persistent reader, he will naturally
put forward literary topics in his conversation. So
with social questions, political questions, religious
questions. Out of the abundance of the heart the
mouth speaketh. That of which the mind is full —
that with which it is furnished — will come out in
expression.

The very simple reason why the world is full of
gossip, is, that those who indulge in it have nothing
else in them. They must interest themselves in
something. They know nothing but what they
learn from day to day, in intercourse with, and
observation of, their neighbors. What these neigh-
bors do, — what they say, — what happens to them
in their social and business affairs, — what they wear,
—these become the questions of supreme interest
The p)ersonal and ^social life around them — this is
the book under constant perusal, and out of this
comes that pestiferous conversation which we call
gossip. The world is full of it ; and in a million
houses, all over this country, nothing is talked of
bat the personal affairs of neighbors. All personal
and social movements and concerns are arraigned
before this high court of gossip, are retailed at every
fireside, are sweetened with approval or embittered
by spite, and are gathered up as the common stock
of conversation by the bankrupt brains that have
nothing to busy themselves with but tittle-tattle.

The moral aspects of gossip are bad enough. It
is a constant infraction of the Golden Rule ; it is
full of all uncharitableness. No man or woman of
sensibility Ukes to have his or her personal con-
cerns hawked about and talked about; and those
who engage in this work are meddlers and busy-
bodies who are not only doing damage to others —



are not only engaged in a most unneigfaborly office
— ^but are inflicting a great damage upon them*
selves. They sow the seeds of anger and animosity
and social discord. Not one good moral result
ever comes out of it. It is a thoroughly immoral
practice, and what is worst and most hopeless about
it is, that those who are engaged in it do not see
that it is immoral and detestable. To go into a man's
house, stealthily, when he is away from home, and
overhaul his papers, or into a lady's wardrobe and
examine her dresses, would be deemed a very dis-
honorable thing; but to take up a man's or a
woman's name, and smutch it all over with gossip —
to handle the private affairs of a neighbor arOund a
hundred firesides — why this is nothing ! It makes
conversation. It furnishes a topic It keeps the
wheels of society going.

Unhappily for public morals, the greed for per-
sonal gossip has been seized upon as the basis of a
thrifty traffic There are newspapers that spring to
meet every popular demand. We have agricultural
papers, scientific papers, literary papers, sporting
papers, religious papers, political papers, and papers
devoted to every special interest, great and small,
that can be named, and, among them, papers devoted
to personal gossip. The way in which the names
of private men and women are handled by caterers
for the public press, the way in which their move-
ments and affairs are heralded and discussed, would
be supremely disgusting were it not more disgusting^
that these papers find greedy readers enough to
make the traffic profitable. The redeeming thing^
about these papers is, that they are rarely malicious
except when they are very low down — that they
season their doses with flattery. They find their
reward in ministering to personal vanity.

What is the cure for gossip ? Simply, culture.
There is a great deal of gossip that has no malig-
nity in it Good-natured people talk about their
neighbors because, and only because, they have
nothing else to talk about. As we write, there
comes to us the picture of a family of young ladies.
We have seen them at home, we have met them in
galleries of art, we have caught glimpses of them
going from a bookstore, or a library, with a fresh
volume in their hands. When we meet them, they
are full of what they have seen and read. They are
brimming with questions. One topic of conversa-
tion is dropped only to give place to another, in
which they are interested. We have left them, after
a delightful hour, stimulated and refreshed; and
during the whole hour not a neighbor's garment was
soiled by so much as a touch. They had something-
to talk about. They knew something, and wanted
to know more. They could listen as well as they
could talk. To speak freely of a neighbor's doings
and belongings would have seemed an impertinence
to them, and, of course, an impropriety. They had
no temptation to gossip, because the doings of their
neighbors formed a subject very much less interest-
ing than those which grew out of their knowledge
and their culture.

And this tells the whole story. The confirmed
gossip is always jrither malicious or ignorant The



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THE OLD CABINET



OBC wwhttj needs a change of heart and the other a
ffcingr of pasture. Gossip is always a personal con-
ifnioo either of malice or imbecility, and the young
sJkmld not only shnn it, but by the most thorough
cvJtnre relieve themselves from all temptation to
indalge in it. It is a low, frivolous, and too often a



dirty business. There are country neighborlioods
in which it rages like a pest. Churches are split in
pieces by it Neighbors are made enemies by it for
life. In many persons it degenerates into a dironic
disease, which is practically incurable. Let the yoa n^
cure it while they may.



THE OLD CABINET.



There is something to be said in favor of the
sentimentalist, after all. In life and in literature the
sentimentalist is hardly as unpleasant as the cynic.
It would be well for every man and woman to culti-
vate an antipathy to cynicism, for it is the state into
which we are most likely to fall as life leads us
on, and we meet the inevitable disappointments. It
is a fate to which even the sentimentalist is liable.
Indeed, it is a well-worn proverb that the sweetest
wine makes the sourest vinegar.

That the sentimentalist is not always despicable,
you may learn from Thackeray's worldly-wise pages.
In what a fatherly way he pats the little creatures'



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 74 of 163)