Harper's Weekly 08/19/1899

By E. S. Martin

A BUSY lawyer of New York, who is working
through August, while some of his partners
are undergoing their vacations, declared the
other night that it was his soul's secret desire
to write a play that should differ from the
current play of theatrical commerce in being
worth going to see. He spoke with grief of the laborious
discomfort he had undergone last winter in seeking en-
tertainment in the theatres and seldom finding it, and
protested that though the composition of any sort of
effectual literature was only too apt to be an exhausting
exercise, he meant some time to devote as much as a
week of his vacation to producing a real play that it
would be some pleasure to see.

Persons who are recruiting their energies in prepara-
tions for the demands-next winter's playwrights will
make upon them will hope that his determination may
hold out. They will also be interested to know that,
pending the creation of this masterpiece, Miss Mary Wil-
kins's novel, Jerome, a Poor Man, has been dramatized by
persons whose identity has not yet been disclosed, and
will be brought out next winter in New York, with Mr.
Walter E. Perkins as Jerome.

Mr. Perkins is the actor who had a recent and very
pronounced success in “My Friend from India.”

Jerome was published as a serial in the Weekly, and
has been widely read, as it deserves to be, in book form.
It will be recalled as a story unusually rich in striking
scenes and in unusual and strongly marked characters.
There will be chances in it for more than one actor to
make a hit.

THE government report for the fiscal year of 1898-
gives some interesting information about the use of
tobacco. Domestic cigars are consumed as extensively
as ever; for though only 4, 530, 000, 000 were produced,
as against 4, 542, 000, 000 the year before, it is explained
that the apparent decrease is accounted for by the extreme
diligence of the cigar factories early in 1898 to turn out
an extra supply of cigars before the tax was raised.

The manufacture of cigarettes, after growing steadily
for twelve years, until it exceeded 4, 000, 000, 000 a year,
has fallen off about 300, 000, 000. This may be an effect
of increased taxation, or may be due to the industry with
which the idea has been diffused that cigarettes contain
the seeds of every known disease and of every crime.
The exportation of American cigarettes, it is observed, has
increased considerably. We exported over a billion of
them last year.

It is matter of general observation that among the self-
indulgent whose revenues are in reasonable accord with
their tastes the use of Egyptian and Turkish cigarettes
has very greatly increased within the last two years.
They are sold extensively, and many new brands of them
have appeared in the market. They cost from two to
six times as much as the cigarettes made of Virginia to-
bacco, smell much worse, and probably accomplish their
deadly work in less time and with greater certainty.

The convenient but much-disparaged habit of chewing
tobacco is rapidly declining in this country. Missouri
manufactured 5, 000, 000, 000 pounds less last year than the
year before—an indirect result, perhaps, of the defeat of
Bryan and consequent despondency of the Democracy.
New Jersey and Kentucky each showed a falling off of
about the same amount. It is owing to this decrease in
the consumption of the chewing-tobaccos that, although the
use of the cheap smoking-tobaccos has largely increased, the
amount of manufactured tobaccos was 57, 000, 000 pounds
less than the total (294, 000, 000 pounds) of the year before.
But the exports of chewing-tobacco increased last year
73, 000 pounds, showing that the rest of the world is not
improving as fast as we are.

A FRIEND of the Weekly, who has written to it at
some length from the German university where he is
amassing wisdom, makes some interesting and rather
novel comments on German education and character as
they impress him after two or three years of observation.
“An American, he says, “who has lived five years in
France or England is in danger of losing his American-
ism. But in Germany this cannot happen in a lifetime,
for the German is no more able to force his civilization on
the Anglo-Saxon here than in America.” One might de-
mur a little to that, for the German has brought certain
details of his civilization with him when he has come to
us—his beer and his music, especially, and the combina-
tions in which he likes to enjoy them—and we have ac-
cepted them very hospitably. Still, in the main most of
us will agree that the German who comes here assimi-
lates Americanism with wonderful ease and speed and
completeness. The reason of it, according to our present
correspondent, is that the average German is kept so con-
tinuously in leading-strings at home that his development
is not completed unless he gets out of his own country.
Our observer says:

The higher university courses of Germany are admirable, and at-
tract, as you know, hundreds of foreign students. The earlier train-
ing of the German boys is, however, in some ways very faulty. They
are kept in school under a discipline so strict as to prevent the devel-
opment of a manly, self-reliant character. I had it direct from an
American boy, who was sent to school in Göttingen, that in one morning
twenty-nine out of thirty-three boys were whipped for breaking rules
so petty that he himself did not know for what the boys were being
punished. The German boys were afraid to quarrel with him, as they
had the desire to do, because, as they told him, they thought he
would tell the teacher; and, in fact, the teacher had the habit of open-
ly praising any boy who would tell on his comrades. Later the Ger-
man is surrounded by such a strictly enforced set of police regulations
that he does not settle his unpleasantness by fist-fighting, but by in-
forming the police, or, in the case of the upper classes, especially stu-
dents and officers, by duelling. The result is that the German is a
man in physical development with the bearing and spirit of a cowed
child, always ready to get red in the face and lash with his tongue,
with no sense of shame to restrain him from showing spite and petty
jealousy, and with insufficient individuality or ability to impress oth-
ers with his real worth. The women carry themselves too much like
servants. The banker, mayor, or important business man is not to be
distinguished by the outward impression he makes from the clod-
hopper. When a German goes to America he is a blank page, on
which our powerful nationality begins at once to print its impres-
sions. Around her own borders, too, Germany is being constantly in-
vaded by other nationalities, as indeed the Germans themselves ad-
mit. If a German woman marries near the border, say a Pole, the
children are Poles in sympathy and character. If a German man mar-
ries a Polish woman, the same is true. Recently from Schleswig-Hol-
stein there have been forcible ejections of the inhabitants over the
border for this reason. A native of Alsace wishes to be considered a
Frenchman. I imagine that in America we look on the German as
good-natured and harmless, because it is quite impossible for him to
retain the more disagreeable trait he has in his home, of saying mean,
cutting things for the mere pleasure of it, and of acting in a similar
way. The German here is good natured too at times—in fact, most
of the time. One begins to like him; something comes up where he is
put to the test to show his thoroughbred gentlemanlike qualities, and
they are not forth-coming. Then before one's slowly growing disgust
has time to mature he is again good-natured, has wholly forgotten his
recent behavior, and if one is not immediately reconciled one is called
garstig, which means dirty, nasty, sulky. One has taken him too se-

The reader will of course use his own judgment as to
the degree of confidence he puts in this delineation of
German character. As our correspondent sees them, the
Germans, as a rule, lack distinction, and are liable, under
stress of temper, to behave in a way which does not ac-
cord with our notions of dignity. As raw material of
civilization they are strong and serviceable. As matured
products they seem to him to lack development and fin-
ish. His criticism that they lack self-reliance is of inter-
est in connection with what was said in the Weekly last
week about the reluctance of the Germans to assert their
constitutional rights as against the encroachments of au-
tocracy in the person of their aggressive Emperor. No
doubt William knows his Germans, and is aware of how
great a gift of submissiveness is combined in them with
unquestionable strength.

Some things we know by observation in this country
about Germans—that they are orderly and industrious;
that no class of Europeans is more welcome here; that
none merges more quickly into the resident population
and becomes bone of our bone with less reserve. The
German in America has a sentiment for the father-land,
but it is a sentiment that no American fears. He does not
look back, but forward, and the future that concerns him
most is the future of the United States. Last year in
this country there seemed to be a German sentiment that
was almost universal against the war with Spain. There
was scarcely a newspaper in the country controlled by
men of German birth or derivation that was not against
the war. It excited remark because it is so very unusual
for the Germans in America, as a class, to be identified
with a particular opinion in national politics.

One of the marvels of our country is its extraordinary
power to assimilate and amalgamate foreign elements. The
Americans of the United States, augmented by a contin-
uous inflow of all sorts of foreign stocks, have still the
prospect of becoming one of the most homogeneous na-
tions under the sun. The only perplexing element we
have is the negro.

THERE is a rumor, caught, in London and communi-
cated to the New York Times, that important changes
are to be made in Punch, including, it appears, “an in-
fusion of serious comment and discussion, and some
alteration in size and price.” If the report is verified, it
will be a hard blow to American confidence in the stabil-
ity of things British. The understanding in this country
has been that though change and decay pursued their
ceaseless course over here, in England there was such a
thing as stability even in the periodical business, and
that a journal or a magazine, once thoroughly established,
might go on infinitely wearing the same dress, saying the
same sort of things in the same sort of way. If Punch takes
a new departure, it will go far to shake faith in this theory.
The times must be restless across the water, and taste
must be vacillating indeed if Punch feels the need of
keeping up with them.

One of the difficulties of maintaining a humorous paper
is the tendency of the men who make it to grow old. Du
Maurier never grew old in Punch, neither did Leech nor
Keene, and Tenniel's work is not of a sort to be impaired
by the seriousness which is liable to develop with ma-
turity. For seriousness is prone to grow in men whose
minds are good for anything, especially in writers, so
that they get tired of being funny, and feel that the sort
of discourse that became them at thirty is not equally be-
coming at forty-five. There should always be a strong in-
fusion of youth—real youth—in a humorous paper. Very
likely it would be well for Punch, and all papers of its
sort, to drown or pension off its editor every ten or fifteen
years, and get a new one, to whom some jokes will seem
new, and whom the follies of mankind will not impress
like old familiar friends which it is brutal to assail and
unkind to laugh at.

WEST POINT does much more than its share of the
work of furnishing stories to the newspapers, and
very much too large a proportion of what is published as
news from West Point is not true. Stories of hazing, or
of disparities of sentiment between the cadets and their
governors, almost always get a serious twist in them be-
fore they get into print, and are usually substantially
untrue. The recent yarn that two cadets had been crowded
out of the Military Academy because they were Jews
turns out, as was to have been expected, to be wholly
fabulous. Two cadets resigned, and one of them seems
to have been a Jew, but they resigned not because life at
West Point is any more wearisome to a Hebrew than to a
Christian, but apparently because they had unwisely be-
guiled certain of their leisure by spread-eagling a Plebe.
Plebes don't much mind being spread-eagled, but the
officers of the Academy hate it, and discourage experi-
ments in it with rigorous severity. Cadet Albert, who
resigned rather than stand trial for his indiscretion, says
his being a Jew never made him any trouble at West
Point, and former cadet Apfel, of the same class, who
also resigned, has accounted for it to a reporter of the Sun
by acknowledging that, being used to untrammelled lib-
erty and home comforts in Rivington Street, New York,
where he was brought up, he found the restraints of West
Point discipline irksome. Moreover, he could see no very
bright outlook for a young man in the army, and feeling
that it was better to sit in a comfortable law-office than to
be out-of-doors drilling in all sorts of weather, and con-
cluding that there was more money in the law business
than in soldiering anyway, he resigned. But “as for
cadets or professors persecuting Hebrews, the story,” says
Apfel, “is absurd.”

THERE is not much prospect, therefore, of a Dreyfus
case in the United States army, and we will do well to
try to gather all the experience we need of such cases
from the one now so much to the fore in France. We have
been getting the details of the new trial very fully in the
newspapers—at magnificent cost for cable rates to some
one—and few of us have achieved so sweeping an inatten-
tion to all the Dreyfus literature as not to know pretty
accurately what the trial is about, and with what particu-
lar details of accusation or proof the questions and an-
swers are concerned.

About Dreyfus personally the most illuminating ma-
terial that has come to light is the Letters written to
his Wife from Prison,
which have lately been published
in English (Harpers). They were written between De-
cember, 1894, the time of his arrest, and the spring of
1898, when, overwhelmed with sadness, he ceased to write.
All of them passed under the eyes of his jailers. There
is little narrative in them, for he was not suffered to write
of his surroundings. They are almost wholly expres-
sions of feeling, protestations of his innocence, and words
of encouragement and affection. Madame Dreyfus pub-
lished the letters, under the title of Lettres d'un Innocent,
as the only answer possible to the endless charges and
pretensions of the anti-Dreyfusite French press that Drey-
fus was a libertine and a miscellaneous scoundrel, and
that to be a traitor accorded with the other infamies of
his private character. The letters are effective for their
purpose. Again and again appears in them Dreyfus's
cry, repeatedly uttered during his examination on August
7: “I am innocent! It is iniquitous to condemn an inno-
cent man!” Whoever reads them must follow the trial
with greater interest than ever, and that is much to say,
for while that trial lasts it will engross the lion's share of
Christendom's attention.

A GENTLEMAN known to the New York Sun, and
endorsed by that paper as solvent and thoroughly re-
sponsible, has read Edwin Markham's poem about “The
Man with a Hoe,” and feels so strongly that it misrepresents
the agricultural laborer, that he has offered three consid-
erable prizes for poems adapted to correct the impression
that Mr. Markham's verses leave. He says that if Mr.
Markham's Man with a Hoe is meant to be a type of those
who use farming tools for a living, the poem does wrong
to a multitude of citizens, every one of whom may reason-
ably resent the imputation that he has “the emptiness of
ages in his face,” and is a “monstrous thing” and “bro-
ther to the ox.” He says that there are lots of young men
in this country who have been educated up to the point
where the farm-work their fathers did is distasteful to
them, and multitudes of young men everywhere who feel
that common work is beneath them, and that they must
earn their living in some way that is “genteel.” These,
he says, are the real brothers of the ox.

Who shall tell their story? Who shall best sing the bitter song of
the incapables who walk the earth, driven hither and thither like
beasts by the implacable sentiment of a false social education, suffer-
ing the tortures of the damned, and bringing distress upon those de-
pendent on them, because they have lost that true independence of
soul that comes, to him who dares to labor with his hands, who wields
the hoe, and is the master of his destiny?

For him who best sings this “bitter song of the inca-
pables” the Sun'sMæcenas offers a purse of $400, with
$200 for the next best singer, and $100 for the third. The
judges to be the editor of the Sun, Mr. Aldrich, and Mr.
E. C. Stedman, if they will serve. All poems to be sent
in (to the Sun) before October 15.

It seems doubtful, however, if Mr. Markham has both-
ered his head about the condition of the American farmer.
What he seems to have done has been to extract the
poetry from a picture. The Man with a Hoe is Millet's
man—not Markham's. Markham isn't to blame for him,
for he did not invent him, but merely transferred him
from paint into verse. It is an interesting and by no
means a bad way to make poems. A picture that is
worth anything has abundance of thought in it. Extract
or interpret that thought, throw it into suitable practical
form, and—there you are. It is quite as practicable as
the reversed process which is carried out whenever an
artist illustrates a poem.

Website design © 2000-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com