Puslapio vaizdai

have been a very great one. Mr. Ernest Poole in "The Harbor" has written a book that will, I think, keep a strong hold on the affections of Americans for a considerable period. I have already stated my belief in the future of Miss Zona Gale, and in England Mr. Joseph Hergesheimer has a reputation which seems to be greater than he has at home. Mrs. Wharton's "Ethan Frome" has a quality that makes it more attractive than more ambitious books of hers, but even the least of her stories has a knowledge of human beings that makes it notable. But having said that much, it remains true that it would not be possible to produce a list of twenty American writers, flourishing during the last seventy years, equal in merit to Swinburne, Tennyson, John Stuart Mill, Browning, Carlyle, George Eliot, Matthew Arnold, Ruskin, Trollope, Meredith, Hardy, Kipling, Yeats, Shaw, Wilde, Wells, George Moore, Bennett, Galsworthy, and John Masefield.

How is one to account for this extraordinary fact? The absence of a great and long history and tradition partly explains it, but not entirely. Culture certainly flourishes in the atmosphere of culture, but it is not dependent upon that atmosphere. The man of genius is like the wind that bloweth where it listeth. He comes unaccountably, and sometimes is not easily identified. We know singularly little of Shakspere, but it is very certain that he was not so highly esteemed among his contemporaries as he is by us. When we remember that anything like considerable reputation did not come to him until well into the eighteenth century, we may safely conjecture that there were among the writers of his day some who were considered to be vastly superior to him. This is a commonplace of the history of men of genius. Even now, how many people are there in America who will concede that O. Henry brought the short story as nearly to perfection as it has yet been brought?

There are other factors to be considered in an explanation of the disparity between American and English literature, and subsequently I purpose to set them forth. They are factors that influence the life of all Americans,

whether they are writers or not. It may be, as Mr. Meredith Nicholson has suggested, that America's gift to the world will not be an artistic gift at all, but an ethical one. Each country seems, like each person, to have some peculiar gift to give to humanity. England gives poetry to the world,— there has never been in any other country such a procession of poets as have passed through England in the last six hundred years, and Germany gives great music to it. What is the gift that America will give? I am interested in Mr. Meredith Nicholson's opinion that the gift may be a higher standard of justice, a greater range of freedom, though contemporary life in the United States hardly convinces me that his opinion is sound. In any event, America must produce a literature of her own. If her gift to the world is to be a nobler ethic than the world now possesses, then she cannot fail also to give the world a noble literature. All great writing is fundamentally the expression of a powerful individuality. One expects to find the greatest literature in that country where individuality has the freest play. Is that country America?

In an earlier part of this article I drew attention to the very great disparity, generally admitted, between American and English literature, and I purposed to explore the causes which, in my judgment, have brought about that disparity. The question put to me in New York by an American friend was this: Why is it that America, with a population of one hundred millions of eager, vivacious, and very vigorous people, has failed to produce a literature on or near the level of that produced in, say, the two small islands of Great Britain and Ireland, with their population of fifty millions of people whose habits are old and worn, whose enthusiasms are slow and reticent and not easily roused? All the elements that are to be found in these two islands, Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotsmen, and Welshmen, are to be found in America in a more highly vitalized state. All the elements, indeed, that are to be found in Europe are discoverable in the United States. Yet American literature, when it is compared with that of England or France or Germany or any

of the smaller European countries, makes a very slight appearance.

If one takes my own country of Ireland, so small that there is a lake (Michigan) in America, which is forty miles longer than it, one discovers that its contribution to the world's accumulation of literary treasure has been very remarkable. Ireland has given great comedians to English literature--Goldsmith, Sheridan, Wilde, Shaw, and Synge. She has produced a supremely great lyric poet in Mr. Yeats and a very notable novelist in Mr. George Moore, and a host of meritorious writers whose work takes an honorable place in English letters. The small country of Norway produced Ibsen, whose influence on modern drama is incalculable. In comparison with these two small countries, the literature of America is negligible. Why? There are a great many Irishmen and women in America. There are a great many Norwegians in America. Why have they not given to their adopted country poems and plays and novels comparable with those produced by their kinsmen in Ireland and Norway? It is when we ask those questions that we begin to understand the cause of the disparity between American and, say, English literature.

And here let me remind the reader that I do not consider the case of American literature to be so bad as some Americans, jealous of their country's good repute, imagine it to be. I certainly am not such a fool as to imagine it to be desperate, and I hope to give good reasons for my belief that it will become a thing of pride. A country which can produce one man of great genius in a century is doing tolerably well. Walt Whitman, although he was not a man of supreme genius, such as Shakspere or Milton, was very nearly one. Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe received the recognition of the cultivated world. Mark Twain was indisputably a great man. These four names alone were an earnest of the literary quality that was in America, and fifty years ago men with these names in their minds might reasonably have believed that a period of rich efflorescence in literature would shortly begin. Why has the promise not yet been fulfilled?

I think the explanation is a fairly simple one. The America which produced Whitman, Emerson, Poe, and Mark Twain was a fairly homogeneous America, but the America of to-day is not homogeneous at all. These men were all of Anglo-Saxon blood. They belonged to families which had not merely brought a tradition with them to America, but had lived long enough in the country to have a new tradition imposed upon the old one. The British islands had memories for these families, but America was in their blood. A country cannot produce a great literature until the mass of its people are, so to speak, indigenous to the soil. The roots of a race must be as deeply implanted in a nation as the roots of a great tree in the earth. Consider how the atmosphere of Warwickshire is inseparably mingled in the nature of Shakespere, how completely the county of Dorset has entered into the mind and imagination of Thomas Hardy. Many generations of Warwick men and women went to the making of Shakspere, with the result that one can almost smell the Warwick woods in his writing. The Hardy family flourished in Dorsetshire for hundreds of years, and the garnered knowledge of that part of England, stored by a long succession of his kin, has been distilled by Mr. Hardy into the very essence not only of his county, but of his country. Mr. Galsworthy, although he is a traveled man, might, so far as his work is concerned, never have stirred out of Devonshire. The vitality of Mark Twain's writing comes from his intimate knowledge of his own country, gained not exclusively by him, but in part transmitted to him by his fathers, who knew it intimately, too. The extraordinary difference between a man who has observed with skill and accuracy and a man who knows by intuition is made very plain in Mr. George Moore's "A Mummer's Wife" and Mr. Arnold Bennett's "The Old Wives' Tale." Mr. Moore is an Irishman, and his knowledge of "the Five Towns" in Staffordshire is therefore an outside knowledge; but Mr. Bennett was born in one of "the Five Towns." Mr. Bennett's family is Bennett's family is a Staffordshire family, and the peculiarities of Stafford

shire people were part of the common knowledge and tradition in which he grew. Mr. Moore had to learn about them, but Mr. Bennett knew of them as instinctively as he breathed. The difference is very like that between a man's knowledge of his native language and his knowledge of a foreign one. He may learn to speak and write an alien language with great accuracy, but, with all the correctness, he will never have the nativeness of the man who belongs to the country. Oscar Wilde wrote "Salome" in a French that was pedantically correct, and therefore somewhat lifeless. A Frenchman might have been less correct, but he would certainly have been more natural.

We have arrived at the point in our argument where we see that one of the factors in the production of a great literature, namely, the homogeneity of a race, is not present in the American situation. It was present when Whitman, Emerson, Poe, and Mark Twain were producing their works, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it was present in the generation which produced these four men. If one turns for a moment from the world of letters to the world of politics, one sees the flower of a homogeneous people most distinctively in Lincoln. No one could possibly have mistaken Abraham Lincoln for anything but an American. George Washington might easily have been mistaken for an Englishman, but Lincoln was essentially American. The AngloSaxon stock of which he was born had been molded and modified by the American atmosphere until it had reached the point at which a man born of it was so constituted that people instinctively said of him, "This is an American." No one ever thought of that plain and simple man of genius as an AngloAmerican. There was no hyphen in his composition. In figure, in speech, in thought, in habit, in gesture, and in look Abraham Lincoln was an American. One might say that he was the greatest work of art that his country has yet produced. There was a definite, perceptible homogeneity in the America which gave birth to these men, and had that homogeneity been preserved, the

condition of American letters and politics would be markedly different from what it is now. The accent of America would be less uncertain in tone, and Europeans would not so frequently be disconcerted by the variability of the American mood.

But the homogeneity was not preserved. Necessity compelled the American people to invite men of all bloods to come into their country, and in a short time the homogeneous people became a heterogeneous one. heterogeneous one. The blood of generations of Anglo-Saxons molded and modified to the conditions of America became dispersed in a whirlpool of commingling races that have not yet been made coherent, and so the American tradition of Anglo-Saxon origin has been lost. It is immaterial to this discussion whether the loss of this tradition is a good thing or a bad thing. All that concerns us now is that it has been lost, that those who bred the tradition have been submerged in a mixture of men and traditions that have not yet been assimilated by America.

America rapidly became a cosmopolitan country, but its cosmopolitan character was very different from that of a great city like Paris. Men of foreign culture went to Paris to enlarge their culture, but the people who fled from Europe to America went for far different reasons. Most of them were men in whom physical courage and physical energy were dominant over mental courage and mental energy. The majority of them were men to whom culture meant no more than the sign manual of the rich and oppressive class from whose exactions they had escaped. It is not unfair to say that to multitudes of the people who poured into the United States from Europe during the middle of the nineteenth century, America meant no more than a place in which they might earn an ampler livelihood in more agreeable conditions than they had enjoyed in their own country. Learning and the graces of life were matters of slight importance to these people, to whom it was of greater moment that they should have food to eat and a quiet place in which to sleep.

(To be concluded)



NY dog is a pup-dog so long as he prefers a rat, dead or alive, to chocolate fudge, a moldy bone to sponge cake, a fight with a woodchuck to hanging round the tea-table for sweet biscuit. Of course he will show traits of age as years advance, but usually they are physical traits, not emotional. For the most part dogs' affections burn warmly, and their love of life and experience brightly, while life lasts. They remain young, as poets do. Every dog is a pup-dog, but some are more so than others.



Most so of all is the Irish terrier. To me he stands as the archetype of the dog, and the doggier a dog is, the better I like him. I love the collie; none better. have lived with him, and ranged the hills with him in every kind of weather, and you can hardly tell me a story of his loyalty and intelligence that I cannot go you one better. But the collie is a gentleman. He has risen from the ranks, to be sure, but he is every inch the gentleman, and just now I am speaking of dogs. The terrier is every inch a dog, and the Irish is the terrier par excellence. The man who mistakes him for an Airedale, as many do, is one who does not know an Irishman from a Scot. The Airedale has a touch of the national dourness; I believe that he is a Calvinist at heart, with a severe sense of personal responsibility. The Irish terrier can atone vicariously or not at all for his light-hearted sins. The Airedale takes his romance and his fighting as seriously as an Alan Breck. The Irish terrier has all the imagination and humor of his race; he has a rollicking air; he is whimsical, warm-hearted, jaunty, and has the gift of blarney. He loves a scrimmage better than his dinner, but he bears no malice.

His fellest earthly foes, Cats, he does but affect to hate.

The terrier family is primarily a jolly, good-natured crowd whose business it is to dig into the lairs of burrowing creatures and fight them at narrow quarters. The signal for the fight is the attack on the intrusive nose. You can read this family history in the pup-dog's treatment of the cat. The cat of his own household with whom he is brought up he rallies with good-humored banter, but he is less likely to hurt her than she him. He will take her with him on his morning round of neighborhood garbage-pails, and even warm her kittens on his back as he lies in the square of sunshine on the kitchen floor, till they begin to knead their tiny claws into him in a futile search for nourishment; then he shakes them patiently off and seeks rest elsewhere. He will chase any cat as long as she will run; if she refuses to run, he will dance round her and bark, trying to get up a game. "Be a sport!" he taunts her. "Take a chance!" But if she claws his nose, she treads on the tail of his coat, and no Irish gentleman will stand for that.

Similar are his tactics with human creatures. First he tries a small bluff to see if he can start anything. If his victim shows signs of fear, he redoubles his effort, his tail the while signaling huge delight at his success. If the victim shows fight, he may develop the attack in earnest. The victim who shows either fear or fight betrays complete ignorance of dog nature, for the initial bluff is always naïvely transparent; the pup-dog may have a poker face, but his tail is a rank traitor. A nest of yellowjackets in a hole in the ground challenges his every instinct. He cocks his ear at the subterranean buzzing, tries a little tentative excavation with cautious paw. Soon one of the inmates scores on the tip of his nose, and war is declared in earnest. There are leaping attacks with clashing of teeth, and wildly gyrating

rear-guard actions. Custom cannot stale the charm of the spot; all summer, so long as there is a wing stirring, hornets shall be hot i' the mouth.

The degree of youth which the pupdog attains and holds is that of the human male of eleven or twelve years. He nurses an inextinguishable quarrel with the hair-brush. His hatred of the formal bath is chronic, but he will paddle delightedly in any casual water out of doors, regardless of temperatures and seasons. At home he will sometimes scoff at plain, wholesome food, but to the public he gives the impression that his family systematically starve him, and his dietetic experiments often have weird and disastrous results. You can never count on his behavior except on formal occasions, when you know to a certainty that he will disgrace you. His curiosity is equaled only by his adroitness in getting out of awkward situations into which it plunges him. His love of play is unquenchable by weariness or hunger; there is no time when the sight of a ball will not rouse him to clamorous activity.

signed "Theodore Wilson Roosevelt
Woodrow Rockefeller." He prances
with flopping ears beside the flying
wheels, crouches in ambush, gives tongue
in the raid, flies at the victims and tears
their frocks, mounts guard in the cave,
and shares the bandits' last cookie.

But when the pirates become orderly citizens, his day begins after school and ends with supper. With his paws on the window-sill, his nose making misty spots on the glass, he watches them as they march away in the morning, then he makes a perfunctory round of the neighborhood, inspecting garbage-pails and unwary cats. After that there is nothing to do but relax in the September sunshine and exist in a coma till the pirates return and resume their normal functions, except for his routine attempt to intimidate the postman and the iceman. Perhaps he might succeed some happy day; who knows?

For fine clothes he has a satiric contempt, and will almost invariably manage to land a dirty footprint on white waistcoat or "ice-cream pants" in the first five minutes of their immaculacy. He is one hundred per cent. motorminded; when he is "stung with the splendor of a sudden thought," he springs to immediate action. In the absence of any ideas he relaxes and sleeps with the abandon of a jute door-mat.

The pup-dog in the open is the best of companions; his exuberant vitality and unquenchable zest for things in general give him endless variety. There are times, perhaps, when you see little of him; he uses you as a mobile base of operations, and runs operations, and runs an epicycloidal course with you as moving center, showing only. a flash of his tail on one horizon or the flop of his ears on the other. You hear his wild cries of excitement when he starts a squirrel or a rabbit. By rare luck you may be called in time to referee a fight with a woodchuck, or once in a happy dog's age you may see him, a khaki streak through the underbrush, in pursuit of a fox.

Dog meets dog as boy meets boy, with assertions of superiority, challenge, perhaps fight, followed by friendship and play. No wonder that with pup-boys the pup-dog is so completely at one; his code is their code, and whither they go he goes-except to school. With Sep-phragm by way of reporting present for

At last you hear the drumming of his feet on the road behind you; he shoots past before he can shift gears, wheels, and lands a running jump on your dia

tember come the dull days for him. No more the hordes of pirates and bandits with bandanas and peaked hats, belts stuck full of dirks and "ottermaticks," sweep up and down the sidewalk on bicycles in open defiance of the law, raiding lawns and gardens, scattering shrieking tea-parties of little girls and dolls, haling them aboard the lugger in the next lot and holding them for fabulous ransom. There is always some one who will pay it with an imposing check

duty. Thereafter he sticks a little closer, popping out into the road or showing his tousled face through the leaves at intervals of two or three hundred yards to make sure that you are still on the planet. Then you may enjoy his indefatigable industry in counting with his nose, his tail quivering with delight, the chinks of old stone walls. You may light your pipe and sit by for an hour as he energetically follows his family tradition in digging under an old

« AnkstesnisTęsti »