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not been formed by the social needs of America.

That this is true of so many men, and has led to the cross-fertilization between popular writers and intellectuals of which I have written above, is perhaps more readily explained when one considers how homogeneous our society has been, how few and how slight its mental cleavages. Conservative and radical, traditionalist and anti-traditionalist, democrat and aristocratsuch clefts have not gone so deep with us as with other nations. Except for times of stress, as in the decade between 1765 and 1775, or in the years just before the Civil War, it would be hard to group, for example, our writers by fundamental differences in their philosophy of living. Whitman one could classify, and Poe and Irving, but the difficulty rapidly increases as the list lengthens. We have been homogeneous by a common tradition of liberalism, by a common environment varying not too greatly between Boston and the newer West. And our literature has resembled us.

And now, when at last our literature, like our politics and our economics, must at last challenge world scrutiny, this national character, and all that represents it, has come suddenly to seem of vast importance. We have become vividly aware of it, and we realize that we are in dire need of self-expression— of self-expression by new literature. The self-consciousness of Americans throughout the nineteenth century, which showed itself keenly in their restlessness under foreign criticism and their irrepressible desire to talk about God's country, was of a different kind. It was due to a nervous uncertainty as to the success of the American experiment. We were more concerned with what others thought of our qualities than with what we were or had been. But three things have altered our situation radically, and made us think more of character and less of reputation.

The first is the absolute success, as success is measured by the world's finger, of this American experiment. The hope of the founders to establish' a stable and prosperous republican government where life, property, conscience, and opinion were safe has been realized.

The second and more sensational change came from the Great War, which gave us that quiet confidence in our national strength that comes when recognition from without confirms the fact and makes self-assertion unnecessary.

The third, and probably the most important, has been the rise to intellectual influence and cultural and social power of aliens-Irish, German, most of all Jews-who, unlike the earlier immigrants, do not cherish as their chief wish the desire to become in every sense American. Such phenomena as an Alexander Hamilton or Thomas Paine, becoming almost from the day of their landing more native than the natives, are becoming rarer and rarer. More and more we must count upon a cosmopolitan society of brains and ability among us who know not Israel, though they may love the traditions of their home lands even less. It is this new America, heterogeneous, brilliant, useful, but disturbing, that has more than anything else sharpened the selfconsciousness of America, turned toward introspection, made us sensible of our homogeneity, and the new alinements inevitable for the future.


And just as at the turn of the eighteenth century enthusiasts were clamoring for a new literature from America, in which freedom and liberty should have their apotheosis, so now the awakened consciousness of Americans of the older stock is clamoring for the expression of what they vaguely denominate, and still more vaguely describe, as Americanism. Like all such terms called forth by a crisis and displayed like a flag or a button, the term is at the same time indefinite and full of significance. Ten men and women will in ten different ways define it. And yet none can doubt that vast feeling lies behind the word, and would crystallize, if power were given it, into an expression of our national experience and aspirations and ideals as we have lived with them and seen them develop for a century.

And opposed to this clamor for a literature of Americanism is another call, not loud yet, but rising a demand for a different literature, mordant, sophisticated, cosmopolitan, which will

cut at the sentimentalities in which our idealism has involved us, strike at the moribund liberalism which we still regard as our basis of action, take issue with the moral standards that have been received as irrevocable because they were American. Keenly aware of the need for a more honest and more vigorous expression of what America means to-day, and sensitive to these caustic attacks upon all that we have called American, the thoughtful mind finds little to console it in the clever, sentimental writing which, with sewingmachines, dental pastes, ready-made clothes, and cheap motor-cars, has become one of the standardized products of America.

There has been one response already to the awakening national consciousness, and this, curiously enough, has been almost identical with the reaction of the new republic a century and more ago to its responsibilities. Then the first writing which commanded attention here and abroad was to be found in the socalled state papers, declarations of Congress and legislatures, pamphlets by Adams and Hamilton and Jefferson. And the first response to our modern clamor for Americanism has also been in state papers, beginning perhaps with Roosevelt's administration and continuing through Wilson's messages and the many documents on the war. worth and significance of many of these public utterances have commanded world-wide respect, and possible permanence in literature.


Yet it is rarely that state papers can satisfy a national need for literature. They are too restricted in their interests and too occasional in their provenance. It is only once in a century that a Gettysburg Address sums up the political and moral philosophy of millions or a discourse on the needs and obligations of democracy unites public opinion in America and Europe. The emotions of the race seek outlet and interpretation in pure literature, and here the American response is more doubtful.

None of the more popular brands of contemporary writing seems to satisfy the craving for national self-expression. It is true that we are going in for universals. Our books reach the hundred

thousands, and our magazines the millions. The successful writer of plays, stories, or special articles trades in the thoughts that circulate through a vast community of common education, experience, and environment. The result

is to spread and perpetuate the ideals and the liberal hopes that we call American, but also to stereotype and thus weaken their influence. They become counters in a game, or, better still, standardized foods for the imagination, whose popularity is certain until the fashion wears out. The writer of adventurous fiction to-day uses the same formulas as did Cooper, because he writes for a people still true to the mold of that America which they have inherited directly in family life, or indirectly in the schools. But his idealism is faint beside Cooper's; his "strong, simple Americans" too often were fabrications when compared with Deerslayer, or crude, vulgarized approximations, like sculptures of the decadent fourth century. Vulgarization is the menace of democratic literature-vulgarization by smart and cheap short stories, by plays where the wit is raw, the sentiment mushy, the characters, like their language, cheap and mean. Slang can be racy; colloquialism belongs to a literature of the people; to be homely is often to be lovable and true: but a literature, no matter how moral, which in its lack of clarity and sweetness is like a glass of dirty water, is a heavy price to pay for mere circulation. The appeal to universals is essential in a democracy, but unless clarified by love and hope and conviction, it leads toward universal vulgarity.

Nor does the prospect cheer if one looks to the Brahmins, who seek not the universal, but the particular; who write for the best, not the broadest, emotions of democracy. Lowells and Emersons have not yet reappeared in our society. No Emerson has philosophized the reactions of America to international obligation; no Lowell assailed militarist and pacifist alike in the war; no Whitman even has sung commonplace America become momentarily heroic in the cause of a half-understood democracy. We have had an abundance of writing directed to fine minds and fine souls,

but it has lacked the authentic note of national inspiration.

Perhaps the coldness of our intellectual literature has been due to the specialization of the age. A Lowell, an Emerson, even a Longfellow, has been difficult for the last three decades. Learned men, like these, have been driven by the public opinion of their world toward investigation and scientific research. They have been weighted with a frightful responsibility for facts; they have been better scholars than their predecessors, but less effective citizens. The toolcutter nowadays knows only his own operation. The scholar and philosopher have a lifetime of labor assigned them, with no time to become acquainted with their United States. In nineteenth-century America there was little place for the scholar. He was driven into the world, and if scholarship lost, we profited. Now his corner is built for him, and he has gone into it.

But in the meantime we face a very real danger. American literature, with its burden of ideals and experience, being cheapened by writers for the mob and deserted by the academician, may lose its virility and pale before a new literature of cosmopolitanism, which could find no better breeding-place than Chicago or New York.

Artistically, this might be no calamity. Such a society as a great American city presents has never before been seen in the world, not even in Rome, and the international democracy which it forecasts is worthy already of a great literature, has, indeed, already begun one. But we old Americans, even though our age is of only one generation, are not yet ready for international democracy. Our own racial character has not received its final stamp, come to full self-expression, established itself as the permanent influence upon the world's development which our career and our opportunities should make it. To rush into literary internationalism before the long American experience has ripened into a national democracy would be to skip a step. It is to commit again the error of our forefathers, who proposed an epic of liberty before we had freed

ourselves from the burden of economic development.

And what we need is precisely such a cross-fertilization between the mind that reaches for the best and the imagination which feels for the many, as one finds in varying measures in Mark Twain and Holmes, in Cooper and Whitman and Emerson. It must be a different and perhaps a more mature product, but nothing else can make American ideals worth saving in literature, for nothing else can grasp the shrewd native quality of this people, which is still pervasive through all our alien swarms.

For three centuries now we have been at our experiment in democracy. We have been sordid and we have been magnificent. We have been timorous and we have set examples for hardihood in man. We have stumbled blindly on our road, and we have had great moments of illumination. We have not made a perfect democracy, but perhaps more men, women, and children have been happy in America than elsewhere in world history. And on the whole our course has been consistently onward. No purpose of the founders has failed to continue; no valuable element of character has yet been lost by the way. We are no worse men, by and large, than our forefathers. And either this great experiment is worth something or it is not.

If it is worth something, it must pass into literature, and find men to make it pass. And these men and women must be lovers of what we have done here and what we are, as the young poets of England at war were above all lovers of their blessed England. They cannot be scoffers at our loose-held ideals and our nervous commercialism, who scold, which is easy, a great, though uneven, nation, but do not search out the cause of its greatness and proclaim its hope. Nor can they be recluses contemptuous of the public, in whose refinement lies the only chance for democracy. Nor mere buyers and sellers of emotion who have learned the speech of the great beast, as Hamilton called the common people, only to make profit by it.

"I Read Aloud to My Wife"


"I am an extremely rapid reader. . . . Descriptions I evade, character studies I leap; but the meat of the page is mine at a glance."

T was a thrilling story,

I've forgotten the name of it now, and there was a quickened pulse in every paragraph. It first ap

peared serially in a magazine, but rather than destroy the continuity with to-becontinueds, I saved all the copies, to find with the last instalment that my wife had given them to the Salvation Army. This did n't seem right to me. From the illustrations I had seen that it was not the kind of story that I cared to have the Salvation Army read. I said that if they ever came around again for something to read, it would be much more fitting to let them take Mr. Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" or Mr. Plutarch's "Lives." However, the magazines were gone, and so I bought the book.

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his own, I have become an adept at catching at straws.

"Have you read this?" I said with virtually all the enthusiasm in the world. "This book," I continued, "is perhaps the best thing of its kind ever published. Johnson told me that he would n't have missed reading it for a thousand dollars. It's a masterpiece. I understand that millions of copies are being sold every day. It is my firm conviction that every man, woman, and child in America should read this book at least once. There are people who will profit by reading it twice, others three times, still others "

My wife looked up with a bright smile of interest to interrupt me:

"Let's read it aloud," she said.

Now, I don't like to read aloud with my wife. In the first place, her idea of an equal division of labor does not coincide with mine. I don't see why she should n't read a chapter after I have. She does n't see why she should. That's all there is to it: she does n't see why she should. Sometimes she will read three pages; four is a record. In the second place, she is continually correcting my pronunciation. She says that if she left me alone, I would gradually invent a new language. This is distinctly irritating. And when I insist that the word as I pronounced it is perfectly correct, she has an uncomfortable habit of producing a dictionary that

is unnecessarily explicit to the contrary. In the third place, I am an extremely rapid reader. I have the ability, the power, the gift, call it what you will, of absorbing the gist of a page of type in virtually no time at all. Descriptions I evade, character studies I leap; but the meat of the page is mine at a glance. My wife terms this ability, this power, this gift, call it what you did before, "skipping," and if I as much as slur an adjective or neglect to give a period the requisite ten beats, I have to go back and read the entire sentence over again.

No, I did not want to read aloud; neither did I want to discuss fur coats.

Literally, the book started off with a bang; the aged millionaire dropped with a bullet through his brain in the first sentence. Thereafter we concerned ourselves with the person or persons who put the bullet into the aged millionaire's brain. At first you suspected the butler; but then you saw how absurd this notion was and substituted Mrs. Millionaire for the guilty party. She soon established her innocence, however, and so you were compelled to fall back on the detective himself. Then you gave this up and suspected the author. It was n't so good a story as I had been led to believe. The plot thickened to such an extent that the binding was entirely inadequate. It "haired" in the first chapter, and kept getting thicker and thicker. But it was gripping my wife, and I was satisfied. She had not said a word since I had started reading. She sat there tense, and listened to the master mind of Scotland Yard deduce virtually anything that struck his fancy from anything that came within his

range of vision. Starting from a piece of string that nobody had seen on the floor before he came in, and that I suspect he brought in himself and slipped under a chair when no one was looking, he deduced that the murderer was six feet two, wore a gray suit, a heavy beard, and walked with a pronounced limp in the left leg. This was mere child's play for him. He himself pooh-poohed the idea that there was anything extraordinary about it. "No, no; the affair at Torrington's perhaps, but this little incident is entirely commonplace." You grit your teeth because you knew that when they finally did run down the guilty man he would be six feet two and would wear a heavy beard and a gray suit and walk with a pronounced limp in the left leg, and you were powerless to prevent it. If I could have written the rest of that story I would have had the murder committed by a dwarf wearing spangles, with a face as smooth as silk, and two perfectly good legs, just to watch the smug complacency fade from that detective's face.

Finally, my throat became so raw that I could n't read any longer. The master mind had just discovered by leading questions put to any one who would listen to him that the late millionaire probably had not expected to be murdered that night. He had made no appointment with this in view, and as far as he was concerned, the murder probably came to him in the nature of a surprise.

"That's a bully story," I said in a voice hoarse from exhaustion.

"Dear, I 've simply got to get a new fur coat," said my wife.

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