John Davis Batchelder Collection (Library of Congr.

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advise the rest of us to quit teaching as
soon as possible. Just a few months
ago, a professor of my acquaintance,
who had been trying to pay off a little
debt for about t:venty-five years, at
last gave it up and quit teaching for a
position which gave him better pay.

The teacher needs recreation as well

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as rest. I am a natural hunter, camper,
and fisherman, and before I was a ' pro-
fessor' I spent a few summers among
the beauties of the Rockies. What
would it not mean to me — and to my
classes — if I could spend the summer
in these mountains? I would come
home as brown as a bear and about as
hairy, and my whole being would be
strimg and thrilling with life and ready
to pounce upon the tasks of the coming
year with all the vigor of a wild thing
out of the woods. I know what a differ-
ence it would make, for the last time I
was there I was ten pounds heavier
than I have been since. But such a
thing is out of the question. Com-
mencement day is on Tuesday and the
next day, Wednesday, I begin work in
the summer school. There are about
three weeks during the late summer
which I have left for rest and recrea-
tion. This is largely spent in catching
up with the correspondence that has
been gradually falling behind through-
out the year, and in reading and plan-
ning for the coming year's work. I usu-
ally spend a few days visiting my own
and my wife's people, but our trip is so
hurried that it is apt to tire us more
than it rests us.

I play a little tennis occasionally
and really enjoy it, but my private
honest testimony must be that it is
a poor substitute for riding a good
horse over forty miles of plateau or
casting a troUt-fly in foaming moim-
taln waters. I saw a statement once to
the effect that it was hard to inflict
lawn-tennis habits on a football soul,
and I have a football soul in all I try to
do; and I believe that if I cannot get
a physical expression of this occasion-
ally I cannot long sustain a football
attitude toward my work. My wife
and I have been planning a delightful
trip to the Panama Exposition at San
Francisco; I say we have been^ for
even now, eighteen months before the

event, we realize that it is utterly be-
yond the possible.

Of course the conditions will prob-
ably become somewhat better as time
goes on. If we stay in one place long
enough, the household expenses will
become smaller, some of the other
items of expense may be lowered, we
may learn how to manage better, and
we may even get a little better salary.
Perhaps a more honest way to put it
would be to say that I would settle
down a bit and have some time and
money for other things besides my
work. I may even get to the place
where I can spare time to keep chick-
ens or a cow, and that would help im-
mensely; but I am so constituted that
chickens or a cow would certainly crip-
ple my work.


In all this, I have taken for granted
that I shall get no more schooling; but
this is an unbearable thought to me,
for I am hungry, yes, craving, for the
research laboratory. The university
has even a greater drawing power than
the smell of damp sage-brush and rab-
bit-weed on the mountain plains. I
stated in the beginning that I am not
a failure, and I know I would *make
good' in advanced work if I only had
the chance. I know from the letters
of the president (and I have been sur-
prised at their friendliness and person-
al tone) that there is a place for me
there and a fellowship for me if I want
to ask for it. But a fellowship pays
only a fraction of the expenses, and even
if no sickness comes to us, no disaster
happens, and we indulge in no trips
or recreations, it will take us about
five years to save enough to justify my
reentering the university. But by then
I would have fallen far behind the
times, and very probably would have
settled down to a more or less listless
life. And besides, what may not hap-

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pen in that time to sweep away all the
money that I might save, a few dollars
at a time? And what future would there
be for me if I did return? I might se-
cure a bigger position after I had taken
a doctor's degree, but the men higher
up tell us that with the bigger salaries
there go greater expenses, and that
there is no better chance to save money
there than here. This being the case,
can I dare to go in debt for some more

It was with all these thoughts in
mind that I appealed frankly to the
university president and asked him
what to do. And the big-souled man
realized my longings and desires and
yet could not advise me to borrow the
money to return. * You know how we
all want you here,' he said, 'and it is
hard to give an impartial reply.* But
he went on to tell me that many who
had gone on and finished their work did
not have as good a place as I, and said
that he did not believe I would ever
again find a place where, all things
considered, I could do as much good
and do it with as much pleasure to my-

Many of these details will seem very
crude, even to other teachers in small
colleges, and I suppose there are no
others who meet their problems in ex-
actly the same way that I do; but they
all have struggles, and each has his own
individual way of waging the warfare.
Many keep cows and sell milk, hun-
dreds keep chickens, and some even
raise their own hogs* and in this way
secure their meat. There are some
fortunate professors who have other
sources of income aside from their sal-
ary, money perhaps which they have
inherited or married, and some of these
get along very well and are able to do
splendid work. I know one man who
takes orders for clothing and advertises
in the college paper; some lecture in

institutes and chautauquas, some sell
books through the summer and make
more at it than they do by their teach-
ing, and many a professor's wife keeps
lodgers and some even keep boarders.
As a rule they say very little about all
this, but go quietly aJiead with their
work and fight their battles out in

As I recall, the ones I have intimate-
ly known, I realize how very true it
is that each has had his struggles. I
know one especially capable professor
who for twenty years has been plan-
ning and looking forward to a whole
year at Harvard. Occasionally he
spends a summer in research work, but
his year at Harvard seems as far ofi* as
ever. His hair is gray and is rapidly
turning white, but he laughs heartily
and says he is still planning hb full year
of university work and expects to have
it before he dies.

Professors are accused of being vis-
ionary and impractical. It would take
another paper the length of this to han-
dle this question, but it will not be out
of place here to say that in a certain
sense, they are visionary; but the vis-
ions they cherish are being certainly
and surely realized and made manifest
to the world. If they did not possess
vision they would never stay in their
chosen profession, but would seek more
lucrative fields elsewhere. Also, if they
did not possess vision the world would
stagnate, and science and civilization
would remain at a standstill or revert
to primitive conditions. Knowing
better than any others that 'Though
the mills of the gods grind slowly, yet
they grind exceedingly small,' they al-
most unconsciously take for their mot-
to 'Let there be light,' and quietly and
determinedly go on with tlieir work.
For make light of the statement as we
will, it is still true that there are some
things better and greater than money.

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Looking backward to the days of
my youth in the late sixties and early
seventies, however my memory may be
dimmed by the mists of the interven-
ing years, I seem to recall those days as
a very earnest time in comparison with
the present. The automobile, making
it possible to go quickly to distant pla-
ces, on pleasure bent, and thus to while
away many precious hours, had not yet
come, even though Mother Shipton's
prophecy, alleged to have been made
in 1448, — * Carriages without horses
shall go,' — had foretold its advent.
* Canned music,' as it has been called in
the apt and hurried modem slang, was
imthought of, and the motion picture,
with its new, amusing, and interesting
ways of wasting time, had not yet oc-
curred, even as a possibility, to inven-
tive minds.

Of course we had some amusements.
Baseball was a real game instead of a
business. We played croquet, which
I remember as a most uninteresting
game. We shot, usually very badly, at
archery, and the young people occa-
sionally went to dances, but the delir-
ium of the tango and the maxixe was,
of course, unknown at our staid parties,
where due decorum usually reigned.
Also, on great occasions we visited the
theatre, now in danger of being super-
seded, I am told, by the * movies ' of the
better class; but generally, — after the
children's pantomime period, which
was a sort of forerunner of the modern
circus and included many of its trick

performances, — in order to see Shake-
spearean reproductions, or some play
believed to be 'improving* or educa-
tional in its tendencies.

So we young people lived in those
days, as I recollect it, in a vast serious-
ness. Our first years at school were not
made easy and joyous to us by the
modem methods of the kindergarten
and other similar systems of acquir-
ing knowledge without effort, and we
thereby escaped the effects of the fal-
lacy that learning and education can
be attained without pains and concen-
tration of the mind. We were constant-
ly drilled at school in mental arithme-
tic and other studies of a kind not much
relished, I am told, by the youth of
to-day and unfashionable with modem
educators of young children; and at
home we were urged, in season and out,
as we then thought, to improve our
minds, to contemplate serious things,
and especially and most frequently, to
read good books, particularly those
books which required effort for their
understanding and mastery.

In the period after I left school to
enter business, the young people with
whom I most associated were reading
such books as Darwin's Origin of Spe^
cieSf Proctor's Other Worlds than Ours,
Green's Short History of England, and
many others of a similar character, and
we discussed these among ourselves,
and bought them, or had them given to
us for our libraries — which it was the
fashion of the time to encourage young
people to accumulate. I remember
having been particularly proud when I

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had acquired a score of such books, all
of which I knew intimately by constant
re-reading; and I can well say with an
old author whose identity is lost in
anonymity, *I have ever gained the
most profit, and the most pleasure also,
from the books which have made me
think the most; and, when the difficul-
ties have once been overcome, these are
the books which have struck the deep-
est root, not only in my memory and
understanding, but likewise in my af-
fectiona '


That this was not an experience con-
fined to any particular group of young
people is plain, I think, when the very
large sales and wide distribution of
books of a serious, or apparently seri-
ous, appeal at about that time is con-

Beginning about the middle of the
last century we find works on popular
science, such as Hugh Miller's Fooi-
prints of the Creator and The Testimony
of the Rocks f in great demand; these
were to be found in every household,
as was also Martin Tupper's Proverb-
ial Philosophy f which had an extraor-
dinarily wide sale, over five hundred
thousand copies having been sold in
the United States alone. Works on
philosophy and religion were also in
vogue, among them Christianity the
Logic of Creation, by Henry James the
father, which was widely read.

There was a very large demand, a
little later on, for works of real scientific
interest and value, and often the sup-
ply of books by Darwin, Spencer, Hux-
ley, Tyndall, and kindred writers, was
insufficient to meet the call for them,
both at the libraries and in the book-
stores. In this same period, too, there
was a considerable interest in the
philosophy of Carlyle, Emerson, and
Holmes, and the rationalism of Lecky.
In poetry, the religio-philosophical

verse of Tennyson, Longfellow, Whit-
tier, and Browning, the pagan pessim-
ism of Swinburne and the naturalism of
Whitman were in demand. Somewhat
after this period I remember an extra-
ordinary interest on the part of the
reading public in Kidd's Social Evolu-
tion and Henry Drummond's Natural
Law in the Spiritual World, of both of
which more than one hundred thousand
copies were sold within a few months
of publication. Other well-known and
widely circulated works of this time
were' John Fiske's Idea of Ood and
Cosmic Evolution, Marx's Capital, and
Henry George's Progress and Poverty.
In our great and complex modern
communities the observations of a sin-
gle individual can be of very little
value, owing to the limited possibilities
of observing any large percentage of
our multitudinous population with its
many varying characteristics; but it
seems to be true, in general, that the
observer, at any rate in our great cities,
sees among the young people of to-day,
in whatever class his observations ex-
tend, almost unlimited opportunities
for amusement and pastime. Among
the young people with whom I am most
familiar, tennis and golf, swimming and
sailing, automobiling and attending
the professional, or semi-professional,
games and matches, in what many of
them call 'the good old summertime,'
the tango and maxixe, teas and bridge,
the opera and theatre (in winter), seem
so to fill their time that there is little
left for serious pursuits. Even nec-
essary duties and the care of health
apparently get slight attention in the
rush for exciting amusements. Educa-
tion, by some still considered desirable,
is acquired with much aid, by special
tutoring, which has become a regular
game of preparation for passing exam-
inations and which usually imparts no
knowledge whatever of the subject of
study beyond that which is necessary

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to pass, by rote, the usual examination

In other classes of the community
I am told that the league baseball
games, and the cheap dance-halls, and
the ' Ten, twent, thirt ' movies, form the
amusement and almost the sole topics
of conversation.

If this indictment is true of any large
proportion of our young people of to-
day, — and for the reasons already
stated it may do injustice to our serious-
minded young people who, undoubted-
ly, are to be found in large numbers in
all classes of our communities, — they
need not necessarily be too severely
censured. Golf and tennis are certain-
ly health- and joy-giving employments
which may be infinitely preferable to a
too serious study of books, even though,
as Clarendon truly says, *He who loves
not books before he comes to thirty
years of age, will hardly love them
enough afterward to understand them.*
And the modern dance craze, to which
I have referred, has affected not only
the younger people but many of their
elders also. One circle of about fifty
couples, whose average age was fifty-
five, met twice each week during the
past winter in one of our large cities, to
learn the modern dances. One of the
members of this class, aged sixty-five,
recently explained to me his want of
knowledge of a serious work which had
been under discussion, and his failure
to keep abreast of the current thought
of the time, by saying that he danced
twice a week until three a.m. and was
too tired to read in the remaining time
that he could spare from the labors of
his profession.

Yet this tendency of the times for
mere amusement, which my observa-
tion seems to show as prevailing among
the younger element to-day, must in-
evitably be the result of the greatly
increased opportunities for excitement
and pastime in modem life, which fos-

ter what has been aptly termed the
butterfly habit of mind. This is born
in early years of the *play method'
of teaching in school, and strength-
ened by the habits of a society which
votes continued serious conversation
a bore. That this tendency is shown
through all classes and ages in the com-
munity may be gathered by consulting
the reports of books taken from our
principal public libraries; the Newark
Public Library, probably the most re-
presentative in the New York metro-
politan district, in a recent year show-
ing that fiction, which led by far all
other classes of literature, was circu-
lated to the number of 117,394 vol-
umes, a larger figure than that record-
ing the circulation of all other classes
of books.

If we could obtain the figures from
the circulating libraries in oiu* cities,
the preponderance of the reading of
fiction would be much more manifest;
the greater part of these circulating li-
braries, which are now to be found in
great numbers in all our large cities, ex-
isting only for the purpose of circulating
current novels, often of the 'six-best-
seller* type. The librarians now tell us
that there is a very considerable falling
off in circulation of all classes of books
at present, and they attribute this to
the counter-attraction of the * movies.*


Parmers are not the only class in the
community prone to grumble at exist-
ing conditions. A few days ago, at one
of the clubs in New York, much affect-
ed by authors and consequently also
greatly frequented by publishers, a
well-lmown member of the latter pro-
fession was heard to complain that the
selling of books to the public had been
curtailed in turn by the multiplication
of cheap magazines, by the increasing
use of the automobile, by the invention

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of the Victrola and other mechanical
producers of music, by the invention of
the motion-picture film, and, last but
not least, by the new fashion of dances
which absorbed, he said, the attention
and time of young and old alike. I was
reminded of the saying of an old-time
New Englander that 'Life was just one
dum thing after another/ It was the
favorite remark of one of the principsil
printers at Cambridge, who used to set
up and print most of the important
books at the time when that part of
New England held, by undisputed
right, the literary leadership of the
country, and who, undoubtedly, had
troubles of his o^v^ in dealing with the
authors of his time.

Whether the reasons given by my
brother publisher for the falling off of
interest on the part of the public in the
publication of books were well and
properly ascribed, it would be difficult
to say. Many other causes are doubt-
less contributory to a fact which is only
too patent to all who are engaged in the
publishing and selling of books. Even
at the public libraries throughout the
country, where books, of course, cost
the readers nothing, the circulation of
books is, as I have said, steadily falling

Hardly as this state of things has
borne on the publishers themselves, —
more than one of the large, honored,
and long-established houses of twenty
years or so having been brought to the
verge of bankruptcy by the changed
conditions of the trade to which they
have been unable to adjust themselves,
— it has borne with even greater hard-
ship on the authors. Especially has it
been disastrous to authors of the more
serious books of recent literature, whose
earnings are often insufficient to pay
for the typewriting of their manu-
scripts. This fact has become so wide-
ly known as to discourage the produc-
tion of works of interest and value to

the community, so that no surprise is
expressed when our Ambassador to
Great Britain, himself formerly an au-
thor, and more recently a member of
a well-known publishing firm, is re-
ported recently to have advised writ-
ers * against such a precarious career.'
' Gambling,' he is said to have added, ' is
more likely to yield a steady income.'

Works of scientific interest similar to
those to which I referred in the earlier
part of this article have very few ex-
amples in the literature of the day, and
even the best of the volumes of this
sort which now appear, find apparently
few readers. A recent example which
at once occurs to me is SoUas's Ancient
HutderSy a book of great value and
almost fascinating interest, of which a
large edition was sold, almost at once,
in London. It has been distributed
here in the number of less than two
hundred copies, and Professor Scott's
monumental work on American Mam-
mals has had almost as few readers.

The Atlantic Monthly , which has had
such an honored career in the encour-
agement and production of good liter-
ature, and the [editors of which seem
to find genuine satisfaction in making
good books known to its readers, pub-
lished not long ago an article on the
works of H. Fielding-Hall, which re-
ferred especially to his The Soul of a
People. I read the paper with much
interest, this work having long been
favorite reading of my own. To my
surprise I found, on making inquiry a
few days ago, that the sale of the book
had been limited to a few, a very few,
hundred copies.

Why is it that the American people,
rich beyond the peoples of other na-
tions, with boundless facilities for edu-
cation offered at a far less cost than in
most other countries, fail to encourage
by purchase and use the best works of
our modem writers? Why is it that
works such as those mentioned above

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can find only a few hundred purchasers
in a wealthy and well-educated com-
munity of one hundred million souls?
Why is it that works of serious and
universal interest such as Thayer's
Life and Times of Cavour and Theo-
dore Roosevelt's AtUobiographyy to
name no others, should fail to find a
sale large enough in numbers to sup-
ply each public library in the country
with even a single copy?

We cannot, in these cases, fix the re-
sponsibility on an excessive price for
the books, because in several of the in-
stances named the total number of cop-
ies sold is not sufiicient to supply even
a single copy to one in ten of the pub-
lic libraries, where at least it is to be
hoped that the price is not the prime
factor in selection and purchase. Must
we then blame the public for its app>ar-
ent complete indifference to the best
thought of the time in literature and in
science? Is my publishing friend right
in attributing this indifference to a too
great enjoyment of the material op-
portunities for pastime of this age of
mechanical wonder and advancement?
Or have the scare headlines of modern
journalism and the short, scrappy, but
interesting methods of the cheap maga-
zines so enhanced the 'butterfly' habit
of mind that we are no longer capable
of continued concentration, and have
lost the power of reading books requir-
ing serious attention?

The author too often believes that
the publisher is to blame for the failure
of his book to sell, and the friends of
the author, members of the reading
public, usually tell him that they have
never seen the book advertised and
that, anyhow, the high price at which
(because of the small demand) it must
be sold, prevents its sale. All publish-
ers do not resent criticism; most of
the fraternity, I believe, recognize the
inadequacy of methods of book-dis-
tribution, and are, in their efforts to

improve them, constantly trying ex-
periments which they, usually vainly,
believe will open to their wares the
door which will induce the vast multi-
tude of the general public to buy them.

Having so frequently heard publish-
ers criticized in the strain referred to
in the preceding paragraph, I recently
tried the experiment of selecting about
forty volumes of recent issue on serious
subjects, and taking care to choose
only those which had proved popular in
the expensive first editions, I published
them at fifty cents each. To meet the
complaints in their entirety I devoted
the sum of ten thousand dollars to
advertising these cheap editions in pe-
riodicals of the widest general circula-
tion; one of the journals used, I remem-
ber, claimed a circulation of nearly two
million copies, and charged according-

Online LibraryJohn Davis Batchelder Collection (Library of CongrThe Atlantic monthly → online text (page 87 of 120)