« AnkstesnisTęsti »
TOPICS OF THE TIME.
MR. CHARLES READE is a man of plain speech. He applies his epithets with such hearty hate and contempt that they acquire dignity in the handling. The "gorillas," "chimpanzees," and " idiots," who have been the objects of his trenchant thrusts in his recent letters in "The Tribune," will look into their mirrors under a strong apprehension that their persons will indorse his characterization. On behalf of American authorship, we thank him for his unanswerable plea for justice. There is but one side to this question, and he has stated it. A creator and inventor has a natural right to the product of his brain, and wherever and by whomsoever that product is used, he is entitled to a royalty. There is not a rational argument which sustains the laws of international patent right that does not apply perfectly to international copyright. We have settled the principle, in our own national legislation, and settled it forever, and the refusal, on the part of our Government, to accord international copyright amounts to self-stultification and self-condemnation.
We hope that during the coming session of Congress this matter will be taken up, and settled as it ought to be. The President's Annual Message would be dignified by asking at the hands of Congress such legislation as will protect the authorship of this country, and of all other countries, in its property. Our own authors have been compelled to compete in the market with stolen books long enough. They have been preyed upon by foreign publishers long enough. Our people have lived upon stolen bread long enough. We occupy, in this matter, as a nation, a most undignified and disgraceful position. There is nothing under heaven that stands in the way of international copyright but a desire to maintain the profitable freedom of stealing. The authors want protection; they need it; they must have it; they will have it; and no adverse interest can interfere with their efforts, without great injustice and discourtesy.
We were particularly impressed by Mr. Reade's closing letter. It ought to be read by every wellwisher of his country. He shows how, under the patent laws, our inventors lead the world. Other nations print on our presses, reap with our reapers, and sew with our sewing-machines, while, in literature, we are only a moon reflecting the light of other national literatures. The American patentee and the American author are at opposite poles, in their fortunes and in the world's consideration. One leads the world; the other follows it. Mr. Reade simply reiterates what we have long claimed, when he asserts that the American writer has larger, more varied and richer materials than the English writer. "Land of fiery passions and humors infinite," he says, "you offer such a garden of fruits as Moliére never sunned himself in, nor Shakespeare either." Nothing is truer than this, and the only reason that American
authorship does not rise to the commanding position which its capacities and materials render possible, is, that men cannot live on the returns of their labor.
The history of our failure lies all around us. A genius blossoms, and we throw up our hats. The next thing we hear of him is that he is at work upon a salary, getting bread for his wife and children. He hardens and sours into a literary drudge, and never bears the fruit that was promised in his blossoming. The rare genius Halleck spent his life in a counting-room. Our living Bryant, who should have had a purely literary life, and left, as the heritage of his country, the consummate fruits of his genius and scholarship, spent his best years on a political newspaper. George William Curtis gives now all the products of his strong and graceful pen to the editor's office. Stoddard, a genuine genius, produces very sparingly, and is giving the weight of his culture to the presentation of other authors and other lives, mostly British. Stedman divides his time between the beautiful work that he loves, -the work to which nature has so generously fitted him, and the harassing cares of Wall street. Taylor, who holds in his industrious and accomplished hands the materials and the power to write a better Life of Goethe than ever was produced, delivered last winter a hundred and thirty lectures, and is now editing, for the consideration that is so necessary to "keep the pot boiling." Does any one suppose that he would be doing this if he had the British market of his book secure, with the right of translation into German and French? Moses Coit Tyler, who has an important history on hand, for which, in the intervals of productive toil, he has long been collecting material, is plodding along upon a professor's salary at Ann Arbor. Hawthorne, who, as a writer of fiction, did more for the literary fame of America abroad than any other American, was glad to accept political office, that he might be sure of the bread he could not earn by his pen. Emerson has probably been obliged to earn by lecturing more money than he has ever received from copyright. The magazines are flooded with articles from pens that ought to be at work upon our permanent national literature, simply because money is wanted, and wanted now.
It is an old, sad story. The experiment has been repeated ad nauseam, and yet American authors are blamed for writing hastily and without due preparation. The question lies between writing hastily and starving. Give American authors half a chance; give them an opportunity to live, and they will do their work better. Give them the markets of the world, secure a return to them from all who now steal the usufruct of their genius and their labor, relieve them from the present killing competition with books that pay no copyright, and they will do for themselves and their country what the patentees have done for themselves and the country. We do not wonder that Charles Reade, with his intelligent eye
upon our position, and his strong sense of equity and right, should use the most convenient and telling epithets that come to his hand to characterize his opponents. Opposition is so unjust, so shortsighted, so inconsiderate of the interests of a class on which the permanent fame and character of the country most depend, that it may well evoke his ire, in any terms in which he may see fit to express it. Our Government fosters agriculture, fosters railroads, fosters manufactures, fosters invention, fosters mining interests, fosters scientific exploration, and even fosters the weather, but it does not foster, it never has fostered, that great interest of authorship on which its moral and intellectual character and consideration depend. Anybody can get rich but an author. Anybody can realize from his labor his daily bread, except an author. If all the receipts from the copyright of accepted American authors should be put together, and all the authors were compelled to live from it, they would not live; they would starve. Is this right? Is it too much to ask of the Government that it place the authorship, not only of this country, but of the world, in a position where it can have an even chance with other interests? It does not ask for the pensions accorded to useful authorship in other countries; it does not seek for grace or guerdon; it simply asks for justice and a fair chance to win for itself the return for labor which it needs, and for its country the consideration due to productive genius and culture.
ONE of the most puzzling questions which parents have to deal with is that which relates to the amusements of their children, and especially to those among them who have reached young manhood and young womanhood. The most of us are too apt to forget that we have once been young, and that, while we are tired enough with our daily work to enjoy our evenings in quiet by our firesides, the young are overflowing with vitality, which must have vent somewhere. The girls and young women particularly, who cannot join in the rough sports of the boys, have, as a rule, a pretty slow time of it. They go to parties when invited; but parties are all alike, and soon become a bore. A healthy social life does not consist in packing five hundred people together in a box, feeding them with ices, and sending them home with aching limbs, aching eyes, and a firstclass chance for diphtheria. But the young must have social life. They must have it regularly; and how to have it satisfactorily-with freedom, without danger to health of body and soul, with intellectual stimulus and growth-is really one of the most important of social questions.
It is not generally the boy and the girl who spend their days in school that need outside amusement or society. They get it, in large measure, among their companions, during the day; and, as their evenings are short, they get along very comfortably with their little games and their recreative reading. It is the young woman who has left school and the young man who is preparing for life, in office or
counting-room, in the shop or on the farm, that need social recreation which will give significance to their lives, and, at the same time, culture to their minds. If they fail to unite culture with their recreations, they never get it. It is not harsh to say that nine young men in every ten go into life without any culture. The girls do better, because, first, they take to it more naturally, and, second, because, in the absence of other worthy objects of life, this is always before them and always attainable. The great point, then, is to unite culture with amusement and social enjoyment. Dancing and kindred amusements are well enough in their time and way, but they are childish. There must be something better; there is something better.
It is an easy thing to establish, either in country or city neighborhoods, the reading club. Twentyfive young men and women of congenial tastes, habits, and social belongings can easily meet in one another's houses, once during every week, through five or six months of the year. With a small fund they can buy good books, and, over these, read aloud by one and another of their number, they can spend an hour and a half most pleasantly and profitably. They will find in these books topics of conversation for the remainder of the time they spend together. If they can illuminate the evening with music, all the better. Whatever accomplishments may be in the possession of different members of the club may be drawn upon to give variety to the interest of the occasion. This is entirely practicable, everywhere. It is more profitable than amateur theatricals, and less exhaustive of time and energy. It can be united with almost any literary object. The
Shakespeare Club" is nothing but a reading club, devoted to the study of a single author; and Shakespeare may well engage a club for a single winter. Such a club would cultivate the art of good reading, which is one of the best and most useful of all accomplishments. It would cultivate thought, imagination, taste. In brief, the whole tendency of the reading club is toward culture-the one thing, notwithstanding all our educational advantages, the most deplorably lacking in the average American man and woman.
There was a time when the popular lecture was a source not only of amusement but of culturewhen it stimulated thought, developed healthy opinion, conveyed instruction, and elevated the taste. The golden days when Sumner, Everett, and Holmes, Starr King, and Professor Mitchell, Bishop Huntington and Bishop Clark, Beecher and Chapin, Emerson, Curtis, Taylor, and Phillips, were all actively in the field, were days of genuine progress. Few better things could happen to the American people than the return of such days as those were; and the "lecture system," as it has been called, is declining in its usefulness and interest, simply because it has not men like these to give it tone and value. A few of the old set linger in the field, but death, old age, and absorbing pursuits have withdrawn the most of them. The platform is not what it was. The literary trifler, the theatrical reader, the second or third rate concert,
have dislodged the reliable lecture-goers; and the popular lecture will certainly be killed if bad management can kill it. The standard has not been raised or even maintained; it has been loweredlowered specially, and with direct purpose, to meet the tastes of the vulgar crowd.
Well, the young people, in whose hands the "lecture system" has always been, can mend all this, if they consider it worth the pains. Certainly, the coming into contact with a thoroughly vitalized man of brains is a very stimulating experience. The privilege of doing so should not be lightly relinquished; and, whenever a course of lectures is well conducted, it ought to meet with a generous patronage from all who have young people on their hands to be entertained and improved.
But even the lecture, desirable as it is, is not necessary. In a city like New York, there ought to be five hundred clubs of young people established this very winter, for the purposes of social and intellectual amusement, with culture in view as the great ultimate end. The exercises may take a great many forms which it is not necessary for us even to suggest. Books may be read, original papers may be presented, musical rehearsals may form a part of the entertainment, products of art may be exhibited, there may be dramatic and conversational practice, and practice in French and German. There is no limit to the variety of exercises that may be profitably entered upon. And what is good for the young people of the great cities will be just as good for young people everywhere.
The Way we Waste.
ONE of the facts brought prominently before the world during the last few years is, that France is rich. The ease with which she has recovered from the disastrous war with Prussia, and the promptness with which she has met, not only her own, but Prussia's enormous expenses in that war, have surprised all her sister nations. Every poor man had his hoard of ready money, which he was anxious to lend to the State. How did he get it? How did he save it? Why is it that, in a country like ours, where wages are high and the opportunities for making money exceptionally good, such wealth and prosperity do not exist? These are important questions at this time with all of us. Business is low, industry is paralyzed, and the question of bread stares multitudes in the face.
Well, France is an industrious nation, it is said. But is not ours an industrious nation too? Is it not, indeed, one of the most hard-working and energetic nations in the world? We believe it to be a harder-working nation than the French, with not only fewer holidays, but no holidays at all, and with not only less play, but almost no play at all. It is said, too, that France is a frugal nation. They probably have the advantage of us in this, yet to feed a laboring man and to clothe a laboring man and his family there must be a definite, necessary expenditure in both countries. The difference in wages ought to cover the difference in expenses, and probably does. If the American laborer spends
twice. as much, or three times as much, as the French, he earns twice or three times as much; yet the American laborer lays up nothing, while the French laborer and small farmer have money to lend to their Government. Their old stockings are long and are full. The wine and the silk which the French raise for other countries must be more than counterbalanced by our exported gold, cotton, and breadstuffs, so that they do not have any advantage over us, as a nation, in what they sell to other nations? We shall have to look further than this for the secret we are after.
There lies a book before us written by Dr. William Hargreaves, entitled, "Our Wasted Resources." We wish that the politicians and political economists of this country could read this book, and ponder well its shocking revelations. They are revelations of criminal waste-the expenditure of almost incalculable resources for that which brings nothing, worse than nothing, in return. There are multitudes of people who regard the temperance question as one of morals alone. The men who drink say simply, "We will drink what we please, and it's nobody's business. You temperance men are pestilent fellows, meddlesome fellows, who obtrude your tuppenny standard of morality upon us, and we do not want it, and will not accept it. Because you are virtuous, shall there be no more cakes and ale?" Very well, let us drop it as a question of morality. You will surely look at it with us as a question of national economy and prosperity; else, you can hardly regard yourselves as patriots. We have a common interest in the national prosperity, and we can discuss amicably any subject on this common ground.
France produces its own wine, and drinks mainly cheap wine. It is a drink which, while it does them no good, according to the showing of their own physicians, does not do them harm enough to interfere with their industry. Their drinking wastes neither life nor money as ours does, and they sell in value to other countries more than they drink themselves. During the year 1870, in our own State of New York, there were expended by consumers for liquor more than one hundred and six millions of dollars, a sum which amounted to nearly two-thirds of all the wages paid to laborers in agriculture and manufactures, and to nearly twice as much as the receipts of all the railroads in the State, the sum of the latter being between sixty-eight and sixty-nine millions. The money of our people goes across the bar all the time faster than it is crowded into the wickets of all the railroad stations of the State, and where does it go? What is the return for it? Diseased stomachs, aching heads, discouraged and slatternly homes, idleness, gout, crime, degradation, death. These, in various measures, are exactly what we get for it. We gain of that which is good, nothing-no uplift in morality, no increase of industry, no accession to health, no growth of prosperity. Our State is full of tramps, and every one is a drunkard. There is demoralization everywhere, in consequence of this wasteful stream of fiery fluid that constantly flows down the open gullet of the State.
But our State is not alone. The liquor bill of Pennsylvania during 1870 was more than sixty-five millions of dollars, a sum equal to one-third of the entire agricultural product of the State. Illinois paid more than forty-two millions, and Ohio more than fifty-eight millions. Massachusetts paid more than twenty-five millions, a sum equal to five-sixths of her agricultural products, while the liquor bill of Maine was only about four millions and a quarter. Mr. Hargreaves takes the figures of Massachusetts and Maine to show how a prohibitory law does, after all, reduce the drinking; but it is not our purpose to argue this question.
What we desire to show is, that, with an annual expenditure of $600,000,000 for liquors in the United States-and all the figures we give are based upon official statistics—it is not to be wondered at that the times are hard and people poor. Not only this vast sum is wasted; not only the capital invested is diverted from good uses, and all the industry involved in production taken from beneficent pursuits, but health, morality, respectability, industry, and life are destroyed. Sixty thousand Americans annually lie down in a drunkard's grave. It were better to bring into the field and shoot down
sixty thousand of our young men every year, than to have them go through all the processes of disease, degradation, crime, and despair through which they inevitably pass.
With six hundred millions of dollars saved to the country annually, how long would it take to make these United States rich not only, but able to meet, without disturbance and distress, the revulsions in business to which all nations are liable? Here is a question for the statesman and the politician. Twenty-five years of absolute abstinence from the consumption of useless, and worse than useless, liquors, would save to the country fifteen billions of dollars, and make us the richest nation on the face of the globe. Not only this sum-beyond the imagination to comprehend-would be saved, but all the abominable consequences of misery, disease, disgrace, crime, and death, that would flow from the consumption of such an enormous amount of poisonous fluids, would be saved. And yet temperance men are looked upon as disturbers and fanatics! And we are adjured not to bring temperance into politics! And this great transcendent question of economy gets the go by, while we hug our little issues for the sake of party and of office! Do we not deserve adversity?
THE OLD CABINET.
AGE, doubtless, brings many states of body and of mind which are unexpectedly unpleasant. Among the unfortunate experiences of old age, a popular writer has mentioned the conviction that your middle-aged children are an irreclaimably stupid set of people. This is probably worse than a similar conviction with relation to your progenitors, for the sense of responsibility is greater in the former case. We think that there must be disappointments which are nearly as harassing as this, but of which it is almost impossible to complain, owing to their apparently trivial character, and owing, too, to the fatality of their having a ridiculous suggestion for others. We all know that the troubles of this life are not always of the heroic order. There was a man who was haunted by a suspicion that he had an unbeautiful profile. We positively know that he went through a large part of his earthly existence trying to hide his side-face from his fellow-mortals. Now, imagine a person who has always cherished an aversion to a certain kind of baldness, for instance, and then imagine this person gradually awakening to the fact that this very fate is in slow but unrelenting pursuit of him.
We have no inclination to dwell upon the misfortunes which accumulating years bring upon mankind; but rather upon the other side of the picture. Something goes with youth that "never comes again," but something comes with age that youth could not bring us.
We speak of the disillusions of advancing years,
as if such experiences were always unfortunate. But certainly there are disillusions which are most fortunate and comforting. To childhood of a reverential sort there is a glamour, an air of superiority about every grown-up person, good or bad. course, drunken men, thieves, murderers, and the like are understood to be “bad.” Although there is still an indefinable reverence on the part of the child for even these-yet, on the whole, they do not greatly trouble him. It is from another source that a thousand vague perplexities and alarms invade the young and sensitive soul; it is his natural and inculcated reverence for grown-up persons who are intensely disagreeable to him that gives him such warring emotions-such terrible mental distress. You cannot easily tell a little child that his instincts are correct, that your neighbor, his godfather perhaps, to all outward appearance a pious and praiseworthy member of the community, has, in fact, a warped and bitter, a sordid and selfish, a vulgar and deceptive moral nature. Perhaps, you yourself, have only lately come into this knowledge-wise and wily and full of years though you are, yet still with that lurking fetichism of childhood. Perhaps only now, after many bitter and remorseful and melancholy experiences, "that tyranny is past" for you.
So, in this sense, it is true that among the satisfactions of age are certain of its disillusions. It may be said that it is a poor outcome of the law of compensation, namely, the discovery of more evil in the world than we had imagined. But, if evil exists,
and if it must be discovered in unexpected places, how much better that we should find it where we have all along vaguely felt its presence!
THOSE of our readers who care to follow the case of "Bacon versus Shakespeare," will be interested in the little book written by Thomas D. King, of Montreal, and put forth as "a plea for the defendant." The author is just a little more rampant, perhaps, than is necessary, considering that he is on the winning side; but he is very amusing, very interesting, and right loyal to the majesty of Shakespeare. It may be that he is a trifle inappreciative of certain excellences of Bacon's versification of some of the psalms,-although we should think that most readers would agree with Mr. King as to the improbability of their emanating from the same mind as that which gave birth to "Hamlet" and the Sonnets. Mr. King groups effectively the allusions to Shakespeare by his contemporaries, and does not fail to lay stress upon the testimony of Milton. As an offset to the parallel passages from Shakespeare and Bacon, he gives characteristic passages from Shakespeare on fundamental subjects, for which no parallels, he claims, can be found in Bacon, and the tone of which, he holds, is not consistent with what is known of Bacon's personal character.
As the controversy, if controversy it can be called, may be supposed to have permanent importance for the light incidentally thrown upon the genius of Shakespeare, as well as upon that of Bacon, the present book is especially interesting, on account of the author's direct testimony upon a point which sometimes escapes notice. "The first translation of the Bible into the vernacular," Mr. King writes, "was that by William Tyndale, a Glostershire man, who considered his native vocabulary more significant and equally as elegant as those polysyllabic expressions derived from the language of Ancient Rome. The Tyndale and Coverdale Bible of 1535, which our forefathers welcomed so warmly, and suffered so much for, is the basis of the 1611 edition now in common use. The vernacular dialect of the Cotswold district of Glostershire, and that of the Stratford district of Warwickshire is very similar; any one familiar with it and with his Bible and his Shakspere must have noticed how many words and expressions used by Tyndale in his translation, and by our poet in his plays, are to this day commonly used by the peasantry of Gloster and Warwick Shires, some of whom have never read a line of Shakspere, and are only familiar with the Bible through the services of that Church, where the Daily Lessons and the Psalms are read in pure English. This I can testify from having been partially educated in the village upon whose 'knowl' stands a monument erected, since my school days, to the memory of the martyr who, on the 6th day of October, 1536, perished at the stake for translating that edition of the New Testament which he had promised to give to the ploughboys of Glostershire."
THE London correspondent of "Appleton's Journal" quotes from an anonymous critic, who not only
expresses his conviction that Shakespeare did not write half the plays with which he is credited, but who attacks the poet's character. “There is scarcely a phase in his checkered life," the critic declares, "that would attach to his character the slightest impress of honor. In youth, he was a dissipated scamp, and flourished in the lowest company to be found;" and so he went on through his disgraceful career, a thief, a sycophant, a "griping, greedy worldling."
Whether this is the frank opinion of the unknown writer, or a sorry burlesque, in either case it illustrates the well-known fact that there is a sordid view to be taken, honestly or dishonestly, of every subject under the sun. The newspaper upon which our eyes just happened to fall, contains this state
"M. Guillemin calls comets 'the vagabonds of the heavens.""
There is a way then of looking at the heavens which makes a comet appear a very disreputable member of the celestial community. The ancients, on the other hand, regarded such a phenomenon in a very different light, and there are poets, if we mistake not, to whom it has suggested some very fine thoughts. Perhaps, however, it is not a matter of great concern, one way or the other, to the comet.
It takes a mind like that of Hawthorne to see the sordid side of a great nature in its proper relation. A passage from "Our Old Home" will at once recur to the mind of the reader: "It is for the high interests of the world not to insist upon finding out that its greatest men are, in a certain lower sense, very much the same kind of men as the rest of us, and often a little worse; because a common mind cannot properly digest such a discovery, nor ever know the true proportion of the great man's good and evil, nor how small a part of him it was that touched our muddy or dusty earth. Thence comes moral bewilderment, and even intellectual loss, in regard to what is best of him. When Shakespeare invoked a curse on the man who should stir his bones, he perhaps meant the larger share of it for him or them who should pry into his perishing earthliness, the defects, or even the merits of the character that he wore in Stratford, when he had left mankind so much to muse upon that was imperishable and divine."
PERHAPS the attacks upon the literary and moral records of Shakespeare are partly owing to a sense of oppression suffered by mankind under the weight of so tremendous an intellect. It is an unendurable tyranny. There is no escape from it. No matter in what new direction a new writer sallies forth, almost always he discovers that this indomitable mind has pushed its way before him. Imagine, for instance, the effect of a consciousness of this upon our nineteenth-century writers of tragedies. Tennyson knew well, before essaying his latest work, that the highest praise he could hope to win was the praise of even remote association with "that high and sacred name." A critic dares to suggest such an association, and the world rises up in rebuke. In