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A glimpse of Concord.
New England, the National Wallflower
By ROLLIN LYNDE HARTT
Illustrations by Lester G. Hornby
BY reputation a blue-stocking, an aristo- chicory; its pointed firs and wine-glass
crat, a saint, and withal a prude, New England sits alone, the national wallflower. She has ceased to belong. Paris boasts a "Grand Hotel of the Universe and of the United States"; by the same token, behold "the United States of America and of New England!"
elms; its mountains, cool and luscious, reëchoing the song of cascading brooks; its shores, a tumble of red rocks or white with shell-strewed sand. As a Brittany, perfect. Every prospect pleases; but, alas! the American goes on to add ungenerously, "and only man is a 'native.'
Yet Frenchmen love their Bretons, who are the New-Englanders of France, an elder race recalling a dim past and inhabiting a remote corner province; and Americans at least love the province peopled by their own New-Englanders. Delightful it is, with its unpainted farm-houses, eaveless or gambrel-roofed and mossy; its ancient, pillared white churches; its tombstones, leaning awry; its well-sweeps and old oaken buckets; its stone walls; its winding lanes and roadsides blue with
Now, it is relatively a simple matter for Frenchmen to love Bretons. No Frenchman thinks of judging a Breton by French standards. Radical, self-confessed differences of blood, speech, tradition, custom, and even and even costume separate Jean from Jehan, and, consequently, draw them together. Between Americans and NewEnglanders no such binding barriers exist. A New-Englander looks like an American, dresses like an American, frequently acts like an American, and almost talks
like one. In the "native" an American feels that he sees a caricature of himself.
This misguided being, so strangely resembling him, believes in "plain living and high thinking," considers a professor of philosophy an attractive person, "applauds anything that 's called a sonata," goes unblushingly to a Unitarian meetinghouse, and, when he dies, leaves seventyfour dollars, twelve thousand musty volumes, and an autograph letter from Ibsen to Browning-or so the American fancies. Why? It is difficult to guess.
Every spring and again every autumn, Americans, obsessed with that fallacious prepossession, pour across New England. From what they see, and with their genius for overlooking the distinction between facts and truths, they might as logically think New England illiterate. Tramps, pensioners, curmudgeons, and indigent space-writers overrun her grandest library. Italians, not New-Englanders, most prize Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Her Boston Opera Company perished of inanition. New England villages breathlessly await the next novel by Mr. Harold Bell Wright. Hearst newspapers thrive. Her favorite artist, so an outsider might suspect, is the creator of "Mutt and Jeff," her favorite actor Mr. Charles Chaplin. The boldest defense of the Reverend Billy Sunday is signed by a distinguished Unitarian. Another, when consulted regarding the future of Unitarianism in New England, declares, "It will be extinct in fifty years." Meanwhile, she has her Elijah II, her Holy Rollers, and sects that keep watch for the end of the world.
This, if one naïvely substitutes facts for truths, is the reality back of the mythical New England, whose "much learning hath made her mad," though some, Dr. Rainsford among them, attribute her supposed lunacy to pie, doughnuts, boiled dinner, and baked beans. By recalling manifestly unrepresentative menus, I might feign to support that theory. At breakfast, in a Vermont farm-house, I experienced apple-pie seasoned with catnip. In a Massachusetts farm-house the habitual
Sunday breakfast was oyster-stew. Beans abound, and beans particularly virulent; no authentic New England baked bean has ever yet migrated. Moreover, there is "the clam before the storm." Hence that remarkable definition of New-Englanders as "an insane race to whom Americans intrust the higher education of their young."
Although New England, while undeniably well educated as a whole, is incurably sane and sensible as a whole, Americans are in for a few shocks, nevertheless. I have personally met the New-Englander who enriched the literature of his country with a volume compounded of laundrylists, astrology, board-bills, and remarks on the fourth dimension; also the NewEnglander who reverses the stars and stripes as a flag for the "Nu Tru Ju" nation, of which he is the founder. In every New England city half a dozen of these harmless originals roam at large. Has the West such lunatics? Has the South? Yes, caged. In New England, where wealth is several generations old, it now and then happens that a family can support an unfortunate at home and give him his freedom. This explains. It explains completely.
But what, pray, accounts for the New England intellect as betrayed by its tongue? The broad a dominates. The final r, silenced where it belongs, recurs where it does not; witness "lawr and awda." Vermont talks "caow." Maine talks "paultics." Quincys are "Quinzys"; Pierces, "Purses." Saco is "Sawco." Billerica becomes "Bill Ricka" and on intimate acquaintance "Bill Ricky." One speaks of a "horse and team." Says the ashman, "I bang the barrel down, like this, on the edge of the team." A long, lean, melancholy omnibus is a "barge." A "lumper," discussing the collapse of a wrecked vessel, declares, “She lasted quick." In rural New England clever means "not over 'n' above bright." One ends by quoting the Earl of Pawtucket: "Do you suppose these people know they 're foreigners?"
Foreigners they are by inheritance
"Ancient, pillared white churches
transplanted Britons, with tongues still hyphenated. That dangerous Anglomaniac, Noah Webster, prescribes the broad 4. "Caow" is Cockney. "Down in Maine" (whereas the map suggests "up") recalls the "down" train; in place of "away from London," read "away from
Boston." For the rest, the New-Englanders' provincialism in speech bears witness to their former occupations, seafaring especially. Take a group of six whole States anywhere, make a business of collecting odd locutions, and I dare say you will find as many there as in New Eng
land, while I doubt if you will find any- came the fire, and San Francisco thing like the same number of people who thanked Heaven for warm hearts in New speak good English. As for the English England. “They lack bounce,” said “Cyof the Back Bay, it delightfully recalls clone" Ellis, who has since been fairly that of Westminster Abbey, the London lionized for his ebullience, his originality, stage, and the Houses of Parliament, and his captivating, cantankerous Wildthough a marked difference remains. To Westernism. New Englanders adore flamy ear, the Back Bay speaks more charm
Not long ago there arrived in Bosingly. So I acquit New England of ver- ton a gentleman brigand, with cavalry bal affectation and perversity, just as I legs, a sombrero, a Belgravia accent, and a acquit her of wholesale madness and un- habit of barking, “Caramba!” “Me plan," pardonable over-intellectuality. Chicago, he explained, "is to take Bolivia, smash not Boston, "made culture hum."
Ecuador, move upon Peru, and South With equal cordiality I acquit New America is mine. I shall not be king, but England of aristocratic exclusiveness. No I shall be the power behind the throne.” one has "wanted to know who my grand- Once I heard him remark, “When I see a father was.” Far from indicating a wor- pretty girl in a window, I simply buy the ship of ancestors, the “Transcript's” gen- house." A questionable person, very; yet ealogical page indicates a tardy and un- New-Englanders, for the sheer prank of excited reaction against a long neglect of it, clasped him to their bosoms, wined him, ancestors even in the district peppered dined him, and bewailed his too sudden over with tablets, statues, monuments, and departure. Secure in their positions, they memorial edifices. Unearthing an ances- could afford to. For real "exclusiveness, tor at the Genealogical Library, one no armed to the teeth and shaking in its more boasts of him than a Virginian boots, apply to the parvenus of Middle boasts of belonging to a "grand old South- Western cities; for real democratic corern family." Why, bless 'em! they all do. diality, to New-Englanders of blue blood,
Nevertheless, there is some pertinence a formal exterior, and some remnant of in the observation that a New Englander the celebrated New England conscience. dreads being “introduced to any one he “Ah, that conscience!" sighs the Amerhas not already met," and squirms when a ican. "How Puritanical!" Mistaking stranger approaches. In hotel lobbies, facts for truths, he finds evidence unlimwhat silence! Address a New Englander ited. In Massachusetts, cow-boy swearacross a restaurant table, and, nine chances words deleted by censor from a play by in ten, you salute a box-turtle. But there Mrs. Beulah Dix Flebbe. At New Engare abundant reasons for this. All the land book-stores no Boccaccio. At her adventurous New-Englanders went West. picture-shops grim memories of BouguePioneer life, which breeds a sense of in- reau and of a dealer heavily fined. In a terdependence among mortals and there- minor city the Y. M. C. A. debating, “Is fore a free-and-easiness sometimes indeli- bowling a Christian game?" In Conneccate, vanished from New England gen- ticut hardly a train on Sunday. And yet, erations ago. A stationary population re- if I myself may substitute facts for truths, moves the impulse to court new friends there is hope for the New Englanders delest old friends move away. A New-Eng- spite all this. Under pressure, they make lander finds it an undertaking to keep up
capital smugglers and nimble enough taxwith those he already has. Yet see how dodgers. Few surpass a New Hampshire these "exclusive" New-Englanders behave farmer at "deaconing" a "caow." Here if you take along an Airedale or a fine four- and there
some scapegrace New-Engyear-old boy. Actually, they pick you up. lander turns bandit. Observing the streets
Shyness, not pride, makes them appear of Boston, a philosopher gasped, "These cold. “Their faces are masks,” said a people seem morbidly Puritanical about San-Franciscan, unjustly enough; later everything but their vices.”
Farm-houses, eaveless or gambrel-roofed and mossy
New England laughs when you quote from the school-girl's composition, "During that year Whittier made many fast friends. The fastest of these were Alice and Phoebe Cary." Yet are her daugh
ters all Alices and Phoebes? One, alas! turned a somersault in Copley Square. Another kicks the chandelier. Two more disguised themselves as old ladies and visited burlesque shows. A poetess (name