Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells

Part 9 out of 78

The natives will wait at the hotel tables; they will come in "to
accommodate"; but they will not "live out." I was one day witness of the
extreme failure of a friend whose city cook had suddenly abandoned him,
and who applied to a friendly farmer's wife in the vain hope that she
might help him to some one who would help his family out in their strait.
"Why, there ain't a girl in the Hollow that lives out! Why, if you was
sick abed, I don't know as I know anybody 't you could git to set up with
you." The natives will not live out because they cannot keep their self-
respect in the conditions of domestic service. Some people laugh at this
self-respect, but most summer folks like it, as I own I do.

In our partly mythical estimate of the native and his relation to us, he
is imagined as holding a kind of carnival when we leave him at the end of
the season, and it is believed that he likes us to go early. We have had
his good offices at a fair price all summer, but as it draws to a close
they are rendered more and more fitfully. From some, perhaps flattered,
reports of the happiness of the natives at the departure of the
sojourners, I have pictured them dancing a sort of farandole, and
stretching with linked hands from the farthest summer cottage up the
river to the last on the wooded point. It is certain that they get
tired, and I could not blame them if they were glad to be rid of their
guests, and to go back to their own social life. This includes church
festivals of divers kinds, lectures and shows, sleigh-rides, theatricals,
and reading-clubs, and a plentiful use of books from the excellently
chosen free village library. They say frankly that the summer folks have
no idea how pleasant it is when they are gone, and I am sure that the
gayeties to which we leave them must be more tolerable than those which
we go back to in the city. It may be, however, that I am too confident,
and that their gayeties are only different. I should really like to know
just what the entertainments are which are given in a building devoted to
them in a country neighborhood three or four miles from the village. It
was once a church, but is now used solely for social amusements.


The amusements of the summer colony I have already hinted at. Besides
suppers, there are also teas, of larger scope, both afternoon and
evening. There are hops every week at the two largest hotels, which are
practically free to all; and the bathing-beach is, of course, a supreme
attraction. The bath-houses, which are very clean and well equipped,
are not very cheap, either for the season or for a single bath, and there
is a pretty pavilion at the edge of the sands. This is always full of
gossiping spectators of the hardy adventurers who brave tides too remote
from the Gulf Stream to be ever much warmer than sixty or sixty-five
degrees. The bathers are mostly young people, who have the courage of
their pretty bathing-costumes or the inextinguishable ardor of their
years. If it is not rather serious business with them all, still I
admire the fortitude with which some of them remain in fifteen minutes.
Beyond our colony, which calls itself the Port, there is a far more
populous watering-place, east of the Point, known as the Beach, which is
the resort of people several grades of gentility lower than ours: so
many, in fact, that we never can speak of the Beach without averting our
faces, or, at the best, with a tolerant smile. It is really a succession
of beaches, all much longer and, I am bound to say, more beautiful than
ours, lined with rows of the humbler sort of summer cottages known as
shells, and with many hotels of corresponding degree. The cottages may
be hired by the week or month at about two dollars a day, and they are
supposed to be taken by inland people of little social importance. Very
likely this is true; but they seemed to be very nice, quiet people, and I
commonly saw the ladies reading, on their verandas, books and magazines,
while the gentlemen sprayed the dusty road before them with the garden
hose. The place had also for me an agreeable alien suggestion, and in
passing the long row of cottages I was slightly reminded of Scheveningen.
Beyond the cottage settlements is a struggling little park, dedicated to
the only Indian saint I ever heard of, though there may be others. His
statue, colossal in sheet-lead, and painted the copper color of his race,
offers any heathen comer the choice between a Bible in one of his hands
and a tomahawk in the other, at the entrance of the park; and there are
other sheet-lead groups and figures in the white of allegory at different
points. It promises to be a pretty enough little place in future years,
but as yet it is not much resorted to by the excursions which largely
form the prosperity of the Beach. The concerts and the "high-class
vaudeville" promised have not flourished in the pavilion provided for
them, and one of two monkeys in the zoological department has perished of
the public inattention. This has not fatally affected the captive bear,
who rises to his hind legs, and eats peanuts and doughnuts in that
position like a fellow-citizen. With the cockatoos and parrots, and the
dozen deer in an inclosure of wire netting, he is no mean attraction; but
he does not charm the excursionists away from the summer village at the
shore, where they spend long afternoons splashing among the waves, or in
lolling groups of men, women, and children on the sand. In the more
active gayeties, I have seen nothing so decided during the whole season
as the behavior of three young girls who once came up out of the sea, and
obliged me by dancing a measure on the smooth, hard beach in their

I thought it very pretty, but I do not believe such a thing could have
been seen on OUR beach, which is safe from all excursionists, and sacred
to the cottage and hotel life of the Port.

Besides our beach and its bathing, we have a reading-club for the men,
evolved from one of the old native houses, and verandaed round for summer
use; and we have golf-links and a golf club-house within easy trolley
reach. The links are as energetically, if not as generally, frequented
as the sands, and the sport finds the favor which attends it everywhere
in the decay of tennis. The tennis-courts which I saw thronged about by
eager girl-crowds, here, seven years ago, are now almost wholly abandoned
to the lovers of the game, who are nearly always men.

Perhaps the only thing (besides, of course, our common mortality) which
we have in common with the excursionists is our love of the trolley-line.
This, by its admirable equipment, and by the terror it inspires in
horses, has well-nigh abolished driving; and following the old country
roads, as it does, with an occasional short-cut though the deep, green-
lighted woods or across the prismatic salt meadows, it is of a
picturesque variety entirely satisfying. After a year of fervent
opposition and protest, the whole community--whether of summer or of
winter folks--now gladly accepts the trolley, and the grandest cottager
and the lowliest hotel dweller meet in a grateful appreciation of its
beauty and comfort.

Some pass a great part of every afternoon on the trolley, and one lady
has achieved celebrity by spending four dollars a week in trolley-rides.
The exhilaration of these is varied with an occasional apprehension when
the car pitches down a sharp incline, and twists almost at right angles
on a sudden curve at the bottom without slacking its speed. A lady who
ventured an appeal to the conductor at one such crisis was reassured, and
at the same time taught her place, by his reply: "That motorman's life,
ma'am, is just as precious to him as what yours is to you."

She had, perhaps, really ventured too far, for ordinarily the employees
of the trolley do not find occasion to use so much severity with their
passengers. They look after their comfort as far as possible, and seek
even to anticipate their wants in unexpected cases, if I may believe a
story which was told by a witness. She had long expected to see some one
thrown out of the open car at one of the sharp curves, and one day she
actually saw a woman hurled from the seat into the road. Luckily the
woman slighted on her feet, and stood looking round in a daze.

"Oh! oh!" exclaimed another woman in the seat behind, "she's left her

The conductor promptly threw it out to her.

"Why," demanded the witness, "did that lady wish to get out here?"

The conductor hesitated before he jerked the bellpull to go on: Then he
said, "Well, she'll want her umbrella, anyway."

The conductors are, in fact, very civil as well as kind. If they see a
horse in anxiety at the approach of the car, they considerately stop, and
let him get by with his driver in safety. By such means, with their
frequent trips and low fares, and with the ease and comfort of their
cars, they have conciliated public favor, and the trolley has drawn
travel away from the steam railroad in such measure that it ran no trains
last winter.

The trolley, in fact, is a fad of the summer folks this year; but what it
will be another no one knows; it may be their hissing and by-word. In
the mean time, as I have already suggested, they have other amusements.
These are not always of a nature so general as the trolley, or so
particular as the tea. But each of the larger hotels has been fully
supplied with entertainments for the benefit of their projectors, though
nearly everything of the sort had some sort of charitable slant. I
assisted at a stereopticon lecture on Alaska for the aid of some youthful
Alaskans of both sexes, who were shown first in their savage state, and
then as they appeared after a merely rudimental education, in the
costumes and profiles of our own civilization. I never would have
supposed that education could do so much in so short a time; and I gladly
gave my mite for their further development in classic beauty and a final
elegance. My mite was taken up in a hat, which, passed round among the
audience, is a common means of collecting the spectators' expressions of
appreciation. Other entertainments, of a prouder frame, exact an
admission fee, but I am not sure that these are better than some of the
hat-shows, as they are called.

The tale of our summer amusements would be sadly incomplete without some
record of the bull-fights given by the Spanish prisoners of war on the
neighboring island, where they were confined the year of the war.
Admission to these could be had only by favor of the officers in charge,
and even among the Elite of the colony those who went were a more elect
few. Still, the day I went, there were some fifty or seventy-five
spectators, who arrived by trolley near the island, and walked to the
stockade which confined the captives. A real bull-fight, I believe, is
always given on Sunday, and Puritan prejudice yielded to usage even in
the case of a burlesque bull-fight; at any rate, it was on a Sunday that
we crouched in an irregular semicircle on a rising ground within the
prison pale, and faced the captive audience in another semicircle, across
a little alley for the entrances and exits of the performers. The
president of the bull-fight was first brought to the place of honor in a
hand-cart, and then came the banderilleros, the picadores, and the
espada, wonderfully effective and correct in white muslin and colored
tissue-paper. Much may be done in personal decoration with advertising
placards; and the lofty mural crown of the president urged the public on
both sides to Use Plug Cut. The picador's pasteboard horse was attached
to his middle, fore and aft, and looked quite the sort of hapless jade
which is ordinarily sacrificed to the bulls. The toro himself was
composed of two prisoners, whose horizontal backs were covered with a
brown blanket; and his feet, sometimes bare and sometimes shod with
india-rubber boots, were of the human pattern. Practicable horns, of a
somewhat too yielding substance, branched from a front of pasteboard, and
a cloth tail, apt to come off in the charge, swung from his rear. I have
never seen a genuine corrida, but a lady present, who had, told me that
this was conducted with all the right circumstance; and it is certain
that the performers entered into their parts with the artistic gust of
their race. The picador sustained some terrific falls, and in his
quality of horse had to be taken out repeatedly and sewed up; the
banderilleros tormented and eluded the toro with table-covers, one red
and two drab, till the espada took him from them, and with due ceremony,
after a speech to the president, drove his blade home to the bull's
heart. I stayed to see three bulls killed; the last was uncommonly
fierce, and when his hindquarters came off or out, his forequarters
charged joyously among the aficionados on the prisoners' side, and made
havoc in their thickly packed ranks. The espada who killed this bull was
showered with cigars and cigarettes from our side.

I do not know what the Sabbath-keeping shades of the old Puritans made of
our presence at such a fete on Sunday; but possibly they had got on so
far in a better life as to be less shocked at the decay of piety among us
than pleased at the rise of such Christianity as had brought us, like
friends and comrades, together with our public enemies in this harmless
fun. I wish to say that the tobacco lavished upon the espada was
collected for the behoof of all the prisoners.

Our fiction has made so much of our summer places as the mise en scene of
its love stories that I suppose I ought to say something of this side of
our colonial life. But after sixty I suspect that one's eyes are poor
for that sort of thing, and I can only say that in its earliest and
simplest epoch the Port was particularly famous for the good times that
the young people had. They still have good times, though whether on just
the old terms I do not know. I know that the river is still here with
its canoes and rowboats, its meadowy reaches apt for dual solitude, and
its groves for picnics. There is not much bicycling--the roads are rough
and hilly--but there is something of it, and it is mighty pretty to see
the youth of both sexes bicycling with their heads bare. They go about
bareheaded on foot and in buggies, too, and the young girls seek the tan
which their mothers used so anxiously to shun.

The sail-boats, manned by weather-worn and weatherwise skippers, are
rather for the pleasure of such older summer folks as have a taste for
cod-fishing, which is here very good. But at every age, and in whatever
sort our colonists amuse themselves, it is with the least possible
ceremony. It is as if, Nature having taken them so hospitably to her
heart, they felt convention an affront to her. Around their cottages, as
I have said, they prefer to leave her primitive beauty untouched, and she
rewards their forbearance with such a profusion of wild flowers as I have
seen nowhere else. The low, pink laurel flushed all the stony fields to
the edges of their verandas when we first came; the meadows were milk-
white with daisies; in the swampy places delicate orchids grew, in the
pools the flags and flowering rushes; all the paths and way-sides were
set with dog-roses; the hollows and stony tops were broadly matted with
ground juniper. Since then the goldenrod has passed from glory to glory,
first mixing its yellow-powdered plumes with the red-purple tufts of the
iron-weed, and then with the wild asters everywhere. There has come
later a dwarf sort, six or ten inches high, wonderfully rich and fine,
which, with a low, white aster, seems to hold the field against
everything else, though the taller golden-rod and the masses of the high,
blue asters nod less thickly above it. But these smaller blooms deck the
ground in incredible profusion, and have an innocent air of being stuck
in, as if they had been fancifully used for ornament by children or

In a little while now, as it is almost the end of September, all the
feathery gold will have faded to the soft, pale ghosts of that
loveliness. The summer birds have long been silent; the crows, as if
they were so many exultant natives, are shouting in the blue sky above
the windrows of the rowan, in jubilant prescience of the depopulation of
our colony, which fled the hotels a fortnight ago. The days are growing
shorter, and the red evenings falling earlier; so that the cottagers'
husbands who come up every Saturday from town might well be impatient for
a Monday of final return. Those who came from remoter distances have
gone back already; and the lady cottagers, lingering hardily on till
October, must find the sight of the empty hotels and the windows of the
neighboring houses, which no longer brighten after the chilly nightfall,
rather depressing. Every one says that this is the loveliest time of
year, and that it will be divine here all through October. But there are
sudden and unexpected defections; there is a steady pull of the heart
cityward, which it is hard to resist. The first great exodus was on the
first of the month, when the hotels were deserted by four-fifths of their
guests. The rest followed, half of them within the week, and within a
fortnight none but an all but inaudible and invisible remnant were left,
who made no impression of summer sojourn in the deserted trolleys.

The days now go by in moods of rapid succession. There have been days
when the sea has lain smiling in placid derision of the recreants who
have fled the lingering summer; there have been nights when the winds
have roared round the cottages in wild menace of the faithful few who
have remained.

We have had a magnificent storm, which came, as an equinoctial storm
should, exactly at the equinox, and for a day and a night heaped the sea
upon the shore in thundering surges twenty and thirty feet high. I
watched these at their awfulest, from the wide windows of a cottage that
crouched in the very edge of the surf, with the effect of clutching the
rocks with one hand and holding its roof on with the other. The sea was
such a sight as I have not seen on shipboard, and while I luxuriously
shuddered at it, I had the advantage of a mellow log-fire at my back,
purring and softly crackling in a quiet indifference to the storm.

Twenty-four hours more made all serene again. Bloodcurdling tales of
lobster-pots carried to sea filled the air; but the air was as blandly
unconscious of ever having been a fury as a lady who has found her lost
temper. Swift alternations of weather are so characteristic of our
colonial climate that the other afternoon I went out with my umbrella
against the raw, cold rain of the morning, and had to raise it against
the broiling sun. Three days ago I could say that the green of the woods
had no touch of hectic in it; but already the low trees of the swamp-land
have flamed into crimson. Every morning, when I look out, this crimson
is of a fierier intensity, and the trees on the distant uplands are
beginning slowly to kindle, with a sort of inner glow which has not yet
burst into a blaze. Here and there the golden-rod is rusting; but there
seems only to be more and more asters sorts; and I have seen ladies
coming home with sheaves of blue gentians; I have heard that the orchids
are beginning again to light their tender lamps from the burning
blackberry vines that stray from the pastures to the edge of the swamps.

After an apparently total evanescence there has been a like resuscitation
of the spirit of summer society. In the very last week of September we
have gone to a supper, which lingered far out of its season like one of
these late flowers, and there has been an afternoon tea which assembled
an astonishing number of cottagers, all secretly surprised to find one
another still here, and professing openly a pity tinged with contempt for
those who are here no longer.

I blamed those who had gone home, but I myself sniff the asphalt afar;
the roar of the street calls to me with the magic that the voice of the
sea is losing. Just now it shines entreatingly, it shines winningly, in
the sun which is mellowing to an October tenderness, and it shines under
a moon of perfect orb, which seems to have the whole heavens to itself in
"the first watch of the night," except for "the red planet Mars." This
begins to burn in the west before the flush of sunset has passed from it;
and then, later, a few moon-washed stars pierce the vast vault with their
keen points. The stars which so powdered the summer sky seem mostly to
have gone back to town, where no doubt people take them for electric


Ladies make up the pomps which they (the men) forego
Summer folks have no idea how pleasant it is when they are gone
Their consciences needed no bossing in the performance

LITERATURE AND LIFE--The Young Contributor

by William Dean Howells


One of the trustiest jokes of the humorous paragrapher is that the editor
is in great and constant dread of the young contributor; but neither my
experience nor my observation bears out his theory of the case.

Of course one must not say anything to encourage a young person to
abandon an honest industry in the vain hope of early honor and profit
from literature; but there have been and there will be literary men and
women always, and these in the beginning have nearly always been young;
and I cannot see that there is risk of any serious harm in saying that it
is to the young contributor the editor looks for rescue from the old
contributor, or from his failing force and charm.

The chances, naturally, are against the young contributor, and vastly
against him; but if any periodical is to live, and to live long, it is by
the infusion of new blood; and nobody knows this better than the editor,
who may seem so unfriendly and uncareful to the young contributor. The
strange voice, the novel scene, the odor of fresh woods and pastures new,
the breath of morning, the dawn of tomorrow--these are what the editor is
eager for, if he is fit to be an editor at all; and these are what the
young contributor alone can give him.

A man does not draw near the sixties without wishing people to believe
that he is as young as ever, and he has not written almost as many books
as he has lived years without persuading himself that each new work of
his has all the surprise of spring; but possibly there are wonted traits
and familiar airs and graces in it which forbid him to persuade others.
I do not say these characteristics are not charming; I am very far from
wishing to say that; but I do say and must say that after the fiftieth
time they do not charm for the first time; and this is where the
advantage of the new contributor lies, if he happens to charm at all.


The new contributor who does charm can have little notion how much he
charms his first reader, who is the editor. That functionary may bide
his pleasure in a short, stiff note of acceptance, or he may mask his joy
in a check of slender figure; but the contributor may be sure that he has
missed no merit in his work, and that he has felt, perhaps far more than
the public will feel, such delight as it can give.

The contributor may take the acceptance as a token that his efforts have
not been neglected, and that his achievements will always be warmly
welcomed; that even his failures will be leniently and reluctantly
recognized as failures, and that he must persist long in failure before
the friend he has made will finally forsake him.

I do not wish to paint the situation wholly rose color; the editor will
have his moods, when he will not see so clearly or judge so justly as at
other times; when he will seem exacting and fastidious, and will want
this or that mistaken thing done to the story, or poem, or sketch, which
the author knows to be simply perfect as it stands; but he is worth
bearing with, and he will be constant to the new contributor as long as
there is the least hope of him.

The contributor may be the man or the woman of one story, one poem, one
sketch, for there are such; but the editor will wait the evidence of
indefinite failure to this effect. His hope always is that he or she is
the man or the woman of many stories, many poems, many sketches, all as
good as the first.

From my own long experience as a magazine editor, I may say that the
editor is more doubtful of failure in one who has once done well than of
a second success. After all, the writer who can do but one good thing is
rarer than people are apt to think in their love of the improbable; but
the real danger with a young contributor is that he may become his own

What would have been quite good enough from him in the first instance is
not good enough in the second, because he has himself fixed his standard
so high. His only hope is to surpass himself, and not begin resting on
his laurels too soon; perhaps it is never well, soon or late, to rest
upon one's laurels. It is well for one to make one's self scarce, and
the best way to do this is to be more and more jealous of perfection in
one's work.

The editor's conditions are that having found a good thing he must get as
much of it as he can, and the chances are that he will be less exacting
than the contributor imagines. It is for the contributor to be exacting,
and to let nothing go to the editor as long as there is the possibility
of making it better. He need not be afraid of being forgotten because he
does not keep sending; the editor's memory is simply relentless; he could
not forget the writer who has pleased him if he would, for such writers
are few.

I do not believe that in my editorial service on the Atlantic Monthly,
which lasted fifteen years in all, I forgot the name or the
characteristic quality, or even the handwriting, of a contributor who had
pleased me, and I forgot thousands who did not. I never lost faith in a
contributor who had done a good thing; to the end I expected another good
thing from him. I think I was always at least as patient with him as he
was with me, though he may not have known it.

At the time I was connected with that periodical it had almost a monopoly
of the work of Longfellow, Emerson, Holmes, Lowell, Whittier, Mrs. Stowe,
Parkman, Higginson, Aldrich, Stedman, and many others not so well known,
but still well known. These distinguished writers were frequent
contributors, and they could be counted upon to respond to almost any
appeal of the magazine; yet the constant effort of the editors was to
discover new talent, and their wish was to welcome it.

I know that, so far as I was concerned, the success of a young
contributor was as precious as if I had myself written his paper or poem,
and I doubt if it gave him more pleasure. The editor is, in fact, a sort
of second self for the contributor, equally eager that he should stand
well with the public, and able to promote his triumphs without egotism
and share them without vanity.


In fact, my curious experience was that if the public seemed not to feel
my delight in a contribution I thought good, my vexation and
disappointment were as great as if the work hod been my own. It was even
greater, for if I had really written it I might have had my misgivings of
its merit, but in the case of another I could not console myself with
this doubt. The sentiment was at the same time one which I could not
cherish for the work of an old contributor; such a one stood more upon
his own feet; and the young contributor may be sure that the editor's
pride, self-interest, and sense of editorial infallibility will all
prompt him to stand by the author whom he has introduced to the public,
and whom he has vouched for.

I hope I am not giving the young contributor too high an estimate of his
value to the editor. After all, he must remember that he is but one of a
great many others, and that the editor's affections, if constant, are
necessarily divided. It is good for the literary aspirant to realize
very early that he is but one of many; for the vice of our comparatively
virtuous craft is that it tends to make each of us imagine himself
central, if not sole.

As a matter of fact, however, the universe does not revolve around any
one of us; we make our circuit of the sun along with the other
inhabitants of the earth, a planet of inferior magnitude. The thing we
strive for is recognition, but when this comes it is apt to turn our
heads. I should say, then, that it was better it should not come in a
great glare and aloud shout, all at once, but should steal slowly upon
us, ray by ray, breath by breath.

In the mean time, if this happens, we shall have several chances of
reflection, and can ask ourselves whether we are really so great as we
seem to other people, or seem to seem.

The prime condition of good work is that we shall get ourselves out of
our minds. Sympathy we need, of course, and encouragement; but I am not
sure that the lack of these is not a very good thing, too. Praise
enervates, flattery poisons; but a smart, brisk snub is always rather

I should say that it was not at all a bad thing for a young contributor
to get his manuscript back, even after a first acceptance, and even a
general newspaper proclamation that he is one to make the immortals
tremble for their wreaths of asphodel--or is it amaranth? I am never
sure which.

Of course one must have one's hour, or day, or week, of disabling the
editor's judgment, of calling him to one's self fool, and rogue, and
wretch; but after that, if one is worth while at all, one puts the
rejected thing by, or sends it off to some other magazine, and sets about
the capture of the erring editor with something better, or at least
something else.


I think it a great pity that editors ever deal other than frankly with
young contributors, or put them off with smooth generalities of excuse,
instead of saying they do not like this thing or that offered them. It
is impossible to make a criticism of all rejected manuscripts, but in the
case of those which show promise I think it is quite possible; and if I
were to sin my sins over again, I think I should sin a little more on the
side of candid severity. I am sure I should do more good in that way,
and I am sure that when I used to dissemble my real mind I did harm to
those whose feelings I wished to spare. There ought not, in fact, to be
question of feeling in the editor's mind.

I know from much suffering of my own that it is terrible to get back a
manuscript, but it is not fatal, or I should have been dead a great many
times before I was thirty, when the thing mostly ceased for me. One
survives it again and again, and one ought to make the reflection that it
is not the first business of a periodical to print contributions of this
one or of that, but that its first business is to amuse and instruct its

To do this it is necessary to print contributions, but whose they are, or
how the writer will feel if they are not printed, cannot be considered.
The editor can consider only what they are, and the young contributor
will do well to consider that, although the editor may not be an
infallible judge, or quite a good judge, it is his business to judge, and
to judge without mercy. Mercy ought no more to qualify judgment in an
artistic result than in a mathematical result.


I suppose, since I used to have it myself, that there is a superstition
with most young contributors concerning their geographical position. I
used to think that it was a disadvantage to send a thing from a small or
unknown place, and that it doubled my insignificance to do so. I
believed that if my envelope had borne the postmark of New York, or
Boston, or some other city of literary distinction, it would have arrived
on the editor's table with a great deal more authority. But I am sure
this was a mistake from the first, and when I came to be an editor myself
I constantly verified the fact from my own dealings with contributors.
A contribution from a remote and obscure place at once piqued my
curiosity, and I soon learned that the fresh things, the original things,
were apt to come from such places, and not from the literary centres.
One of the most interesting facts concerning the arts of all kinds is
that those who wish to give their lives to them do not appear where the
appliances for instruction in them exist. An artistic atmosphere does
not create artists a literary atmosphere does not create literators;
poets and painters spring up where there was never a verse made or a
picture seen.

This suggests that God is no more idle now than He was at the beginning,
but that He is still and forever shaping the human chaos into the
instruments and means of beauty. It may also suggest to that scholar-
pride, that vanity of technique, which is so apt to vaunt itself in the
teacher, that the best he can do, after all, is to let the pupil teach
himself. If he comes with divine authority to the thing he attempts, he
will know how to use the appliances, of which the teacher is only the

The editor, if he does not consciously perceive the truth, will
instinctively feel it, and will expect the acceptable young contributor
from the country, the village, the small town, and he will look eagerly
at anything that promises literature from Montana or Texas, for he will
know that it also promises novelty.

If he is a wise editor, he will wish to hold his hand as much as
possible; he will think twice before he asks the contributor to change
this or correct that; he will leave him as much to himself as he can.
The young contributor; on his part, will do well to realize this, and to
receive all the editorial suggestions, which are veiled commands in most
cases, as meekly and as imaginatively as possible.

The editor cannot always give his reasons; however strongly he may feel
them, but the contributor, if sufficiently docile, can always divine
them. It behooves him to be docile at all times, for this is merely the
willingness to learn; and whether he learns that he is wrong, or that the
editor is wrong, still he gains knowledge.

A great deal of knowledge comes simply from doing, and a great deal more
from doing over, and this is what the editor generally means.

I think that every author who is honest with himself must own that his
work would be twice as good if it were done twice. I was once so
fortunately circumstanced that I was able entirely to rewrite one of my
novels, and I have always thought it the best written, or at least
indefinitely better than it would have been with a single writing. As a
matter of fact, nearly all of them have been rewritten in a certain way.
They have not actually been rewritten throughout, as in the case I speak
of, but they have been gone over so often in manuscript and in proof that
the effect has been much the same.

Unless you are sensible of some strong frame within your work, something
vertebral, it is best to renounce it, and attempt something else in which
you can feel it. If you are secure of the frame you must observe the
quality and character of everything you build about it; you must touch,
you must almost taste, you must certainly test, every material you
employ; every bit of decoration must undergo the same scrutiny as the

It will be some vague perception of the want of this vigilance in the
young contributor's work which causes the editor to return it to him for
revision, with those suggestions which he will do well to make the most
of; for when the editor once finds a contributor he can trust, he
rejoices in him with a fondness which the contributor will never perhaps

It will not do to write for the editor alone; the wise editor understands
this, and averts his countenance from the contributor who writes at him;
but if he feels that the contributor conceives the situation, and will
conform to the conditions which his periodical has invented for itself,
arid will transgress none of its unwritten laws; if he perceives that he
has put artistic conscience in every general and detail, and though he
has not done the best, has done the best that he can do, he will begin to
liberate him from every trammel except those he must wear himself, and
will be only too glad to leave him free. He understands, if he is at all
fit for his place, that a writer can do well only what he likes to do,
and his wish is to leave him to himself as soon as possible.


In my own case, I noticed that the contributors who could be best left to
themselves were those who were most amenable to suggestion and even
correction, who took the blue pencil with a smile, and bowed gladly to
the rod of the proof-reader. Those who were on the alert for offence,
who resented a marginal note as a slight, and bumptiously demanded that
their work should be printed just as they had written it, were commonly
not much more desired by the reader than by the editor.

Of course the contributor naturally feels that the public is the test of
his excellence, but he must not forget that the editor is the beginning
of the public; and I believe he is a faithfuller and kinder critic than
the writer will ever find again.

Since my time there is a new tradition of editing, which I do not think
so favorable to the young contributor as the old. Formerly the magazines
were made up of volunteer contributions in much greater measure than they
are now. At present most of the material is invited and even engaged; it
is arranged for a long while beforehand, and the space that can be given
to the aspirant, the unknown good, the potential excellence, grows
constantly less and less.

A great deal can be said for either tradition; perhaps some editor will
yet imagine a return to the earlier method. In the mean time we must
deal with the thing that is, and submit to it until it is changed. The
moral to the young contributor is to be better than ever, to leave
nothing undone that shall enhance his small chances of acceptance.
If he takes care to be so good that the editor must accept him in spite
of all the pressure upon his pages, he will not only be serving-himself
best, but may be helping the editor to a conception of his duty that
shall be more hospitable to all other young contributors. As it is,
however, it must be owned that their hope of acceptance is very, very
small, and they will do well to make sure that they love literature so
much that they can suffer long and often repeated disappointment in its

The love of it is the great and only test of fitness for it. It is
really inconceivable how any one should attempt it without this, but
apparently a great many do. It is evident to every editor that a vast
number of those who write the things he looks at so faithfully, and reads
more or less, have no artistic motive.

People write because they wish to be known, or because they have heard
that money is easily made in that way, or because they think they will
chance that among a number of other things. The ignorance of technique
which they often show is not nearly so disheartening as the palpable
factitiousness of their product. It is something that they have made; it
is not anything that has grown out of their lives.

I should think it would profit the young contributor, before he puts pen
to paper, to ask himself why he does so, and, if he finds that he has no
motive in the love of the thing, to forbear.

Am I interested in what I am going to write about? Do I feel it
strongly? Do I know it thoroughly? Do I imagine it clearly? The young
contributor had better ask himself all these questions, and as many more
like them as he can think of. Perhaps he will end by not being a young

But if he is able to answer them satisfactorily to his own conscience, by
all means let him begin. He may at once put aside all anxiety about
style; that is a thing that will take care of itself; it will be added
unto him if he really has something to say; for style is only a man's way
of saying a thing.

If he has not much to say, or if he has nothing to say, perhaps he will
try to say it in some other man's way, or to hide his own vacuity with
rags of rhetoric and tags and fringes of manner, borrowed from this
author and that. He will fancy that in this disguise his work will be
more literary, and that there is somehow a quality, a grace, imparted to
it which will charm in spite of the inward hollowness. His vain hope
would be pitiful if it were not so shameful, but it is destined to suffer
defeat at the first glance of the editorial eye.

If he really has something to say, however, about something he knows and
loves, he is in the best possible case to say it well. Still, from time
to time he may advantageously call a halt, and consider whether he is
saying the thing clearly and simply.

If he has a good ear he will say it gracefully, and musically; and I
would by no means have him aim to say it barely or sparely. It is not so
that people talk, who talk well, and literature is only the thought of
the writer flowing from the pen instead of the tongue.

To aim at succinctness and brevity merely, as some teach, is to practice
a kind of quackery almost as offensive as the charlatanry of rhetoric.
In either case the life goes out of the subject.

To please one's self, honestly and thoroughly, is the only way to please
others in matters of art. I do not mean to say that if you please
yourself you will always please others, but that unless you please
yourself you will please no one else. It is the sweet and sacred
privilege of work done artistically to delight the doer. Art is the
highest joy, but any work done in the love of it is art, in a kind, and
it strikes the note of happiness as nothing else can.

We hear much of drudgery, but any sort of work that is slighted becomes
drudgery; poetry, fiction, painting, sculpture, acting, architecture, if
you do not do your best by them, turn to drudgery sore as digging
ditches, hewing wood, or drawing water; and these, by the same blessings
of God, become arts if they are done with conscience and the sense of

The young contributor may test his work before the editor assays it, if
he will, and he may know by a rule that is pretty infallible whether it
is good or not, from his own experience in doing it. Did it give him
pleasure? Did he love it as it grew under his hand? Was he glad and
willing with it? Or did he force himself to it, and did it hang heavy
upon him?

There is nothing mystical in all this; it is a matter of plain, every-day
experience, and I think nearly every artist will say the same thing about
it, if he examines himself faithfully.

If the young contributor finds that he has no delight in the thing he has
attempted, he may very well give it up, for no one else will delight in
it. But he need not give it up at once; perhaps his mood is bad; let him
wait for a better, and try it again. He may not have learned how to do
it well, and therefore he cannot love it, but perhaps he can learn to do
it well.

The wonder and glory of art is that it is without formulas. Or, rather,
each new piece of work requires the invention of new formulas, which will
not serve again for another. You must apprentice yourself afresh at
every fresh undertaking, and our mastery is always a victory over certain
unexpected difficulties, and not a dominion of difficulties overcome

I believe, in other words, that mastery is merely the strength that comes
of overcoming and is never a sovereign power that smooths the path of all
obstacles. The combinations in art are infinite, and almost never the
same; you must make your key and fit it to each, and the key that unlocks
one combination will not unlock another.


There is no royal road to excellence in literature, but the young
contributor need not be dismayed at that. Royal roads are the ways that
kings travel, and kings are mostly dull fellows, and rarely have a good
time. They do not go along singing; the spring that trickles into the
mossy log is not for them, nor

"The wildwood flower that simply blows."

But the traveller on the country road may stop for each of these; and it
is not a bad condition of his progress that he must move so slowly that
he can learn every detail of the landscape, both earth and sky, by heart.

The trouble with success is that it is apt to leave life behind, or
apart. The successful writer especially is in danger of becoming
isolated from the realities that nurtured in him the strength to win
success. When he becomes famous, he becomes precious to criticism, to
society, to all the things that do not exist from themselves, or have not
the root of the matter in them.

Therefore, I think that a young writer's upward course should be slow and
beset with many obstacles, even hardships. Not that I believe in
hardships as having inherent virtues; I think it is stupid to regard them
in that way; but they oftener bring out the virtues inherent in the
sufferer from them than what I may call the 'softships'; and at least
they stop him, and give him time to think.

This is the great matter, for if we prosper forward rapidly, we have no
time for anything but prospering forward rapidly. We have no time for
art, even the art by which we prosper.

I would have the young contributor above all things realize that success
is not his concern. Good work, true work, beautiful work is his affair,
and nothing else. If he does this, success will take care of itself.

He has no business to think of the thing that will take. It is the
editor's business to think of that, and it is the contributor's business
to think of the thing that he can do with pleasure, the high pleasure
that comes from the sense of worth in the thing done. Let him do the
best he can, and trust the editor to decide whether it will take.

It will take far oftener than anything he attempts perfunctorily; and
even if the editor thinks it will not take, and feels obliged to return
it for that reason, he will return it with a real regret, with the honor
and affection which we cannot help feeling for any one who has done a
piece of good work, and with the will and the hope to get something from
him that will take the next time, or the next, or the next.


An artistic atmosphere does not create artists
Any sort of work that is slighted becomes drudgery
Put aside all anxiety about style
Should sin a little more on the side of candid severity
Trouble with success is that it is apt to leave life behind
Work would be twice as good if it were done twice

LITERATURE AND LIFE--Last Days in a Dutch Hotel

by William Dean Howells



When we said that we were going to Scheveningen, in the middle of
September, the portier of the hotel at The Hague was sure we should be
very cold, perhaps because we had suffered so much in his house already;
and he was right, for the wind blew with a Dutch tenacity of purpose for
a whole week, so that the guests thinly peopling the vast hostelry seemed
to rustle through its chilly halls and corridors like so many autumn
leaves. We were but a poor hundred at most where five hundred would not
have been a crowd; and, when we sat down at the long tables d'hote in the
great dining-room, we had to warm our hands with our plates before we
could hold our spoons. From time to time the weather varied, as it does
in Europe (American weather is of an exemplary constancy in comparison),
and three or four times a day it rained, and three or four times it
cleared; but through all the wind blew cold and colder. We were
promised, however, that the hotel would not close till October, and we
made shift, with a warm chimney in one room and three gas-burners in
another, if not to keep warm quite, yet certainly to get used to the


In the mean time the sea-bathing went resolutely on with all its forms.
Every morning the bathing machines were drawn down to the beach from the
esplanade, where they were secured against the gale every night; and
every day a half-dozen hardy invalids braved the rigors of wind and wave.
At the discreet distance which one ought always to keep one could not
always be sure whether these bold bathers were mermen or mermaids; for
the sea costume of both sexes is the same here, as regards an absence of
skirts and a presence of what are, after the first plunge, effectively
tights. The first time I walked down to the beach I was puzzled to make
out some object rolling about in the low surf, which looked like a
barrel, and which two bathing-machine men were watching with apparently
the purpose of fishing it out. Suddenly this object reared itself from
the surf and floundered towards the steps of a machine; then I saw that
it was evidently not a barrel, but a lady, and after that I never dared
carry my researches so far. I suppose that the bathing-tights are more
becoming in some cases than in others; but I hold to a modest preference
for skirts, however brief, in the sea-gear of ladies. Without them there
may sometimes be the effect of beauty, and sometimes the effect of

For the convenience and safety of the bathers there were, even in the
last half of September, some twenty machines, and half as many bath-men
and bath-women, who waded into the water and watched that the bathers
came to no harm, instead of a solitary lifeguard showing his statuesque
shape as he paced the shore beside the lifelines, or cynically rocked in
his boat beyond the breakers, as the custom is on Long Island. Here
there is no need of life-lines, and, unless one held his head resolutely
under water, I do not see how he could drown within quarter of a mile of
the shore. Perhaps it is to prevent suicide that the bathmen are so
plentifully provided.

They are a provision of the hotel, I believe, which does not relax itself
in any essential towards its guests as they grow fewer. It seems, on the
contrary, to use them with a more tender care, and to console them as it
may for the inevitable parting near at hand. Now, within three or four
days of the end, the kitchen is as scrupulously and vigilantly perfect as
it could be in the height of the season; and our dwindling numbers sit
down every night to a dinner that we could not get for much more love or
vastly more money in the month of August, at any shore hotel in America.
It is true that there are certain changes going on, but they are going on
delicately, almost silently. A strip of carpeting has come up from along
our corridor, but we hardly miss it from the matting which remains.
Through the open doors of vacant chambers we can see that beds are coming
down, and the dismantling extends into the halls at places. Certain
decorative carved chairs which repeated themselves outside the doors have
ceased to be there; but the pictures still hang on the walls, and within
our own rooms everything is as conscientious as in midsummer. The
service is instant, and, if there is some change in it, the change is not
for the worse. Yesterday our waiter bade me good-bye, and when I said I
was sorry he was going he alleged a boil on his cheek in excuse; he would
not allow that his going had anything to do with the closing of the
hotel, and he was promptly replaced by another who speaks excellent
English. Now that the first is gone, I may own that he seemed not to
speak any foreign language long, but, when cornered in English, took
refuge in French, and then fled from pursuit in that to German, and
brought up in final Dutch, where he was practically inaccessible.

The elevator runs regularly, if not rapidly; the papers arrive
unfailingly in the reading-room, including a solitary London Times, which
even I do not read, perhaps because I have no English-reading rival to
contend for it with. Till yesterday, an English artist sometimes got it;
but he then instantly offered it to me; and I had to refuse it because I
would not be outdone in politeness. Now even he is gone, and on all
sides I find myself in an unbroken circle of Dutch and German, where no
one would dispute the Times with me if he could.

Every night the corridors are fully lighted, and some mornings swept,
while the washing that goes on all over Holland, night and morning, does
not always spare our unfrequented halls and stairs. I note these little
facts, for the contrast with those of an American hotel which we once
assisted in closing, and where the elevator stopped two weeks before we
left, and we fell from electricity to naphtha-gas, and even this died out
before us except at long intervals in the passages; while there were
lightning changes in the service, and a final failure of it till we had
to go down and get our own ice-water of the lingering room-clerk, after
the last bell-boy had winked out.


But in Europe everything is permanent, and in America everything is
provisional. This is the great distinction which, if always kept in
mind, will save a great deal of idle astonishment. It is in nothing more
apparent than in the preparation here at Scheveningen for centuries of
summer visitors, while at our Long Island hotel there was a losing bet on
a scant generation of them. When it seemed likely that it might be a
winning bet the sand was planked there in front of the hotel to the sea
with spruce boards. It was very handsomely planked, but it was never
afterwards touched, apparently, for any manner of repairs. Here, for
half a mile the dune on which the hotel stands is shored up with massive
masonry, and bricked for carriages, and tiled for foot-passengers; and it
is all kept as clean as if wheel or foot had never passed over it. I am
sure that there is not a broken brick or a broken tile in the whole
length or breadth of it. But the hotel here is not a bet; it is a
business. It has come to stay; and on Long Island it had come to see how
it would like it.

Beyond the walk and drive, however, the dunes are left to the winds, and
to the vegetation with which the Dutch planting clothes them against the
winds. First a coarse grass or rush is sown; then a finer herbage comes;
then a tough brushwood, with flowers and blackberry-vines; so that while
the seaward slopes of the dunes are somewhat patched and tattered, the
landward side and all the pleasant hollows between are fairly held
against such gales as on Long Island blow the lower dunes hither and yon.
The sheep graze in the valleys at some points; in many a little pocket of
the dunes I found a potato-patch of about the bigness of a city lot, and
on week-days I saw wooden-shod men slowly, slowly gathering in the crop.
On Sundays I saw the pleasant nooks and corners of these sandy hillocks
devoted, as the dunes of Long Island were, to whispering lovers, who are
here as freely and fearlessly affectionate as at home. Rocking there is
not, and cannot be, in the nature of things, as there used to be at Mount
Desert; but what is called Twoing at York Harbor is perfectly

It is practicable not only in the nooks and corners of the dunes, but on
discreeter terms in those hooded willow chairs, so characteristic of the
Dutch sea-side. These, if faced in pairs towards each other, must be as
favorable to the exchange of vows as of opinions, and if the crowd is
ever very great, perhaps one chair could be made to hold two persons.
It was distinctly a pang, the other day, to see men carrying them up from
the beach, and putting them away to hibernate in the basement of the
hotel. Not all, but most of them, were taken; though I dare say that on
fine days throughout October they will go trooping back to the sands on
the heads of the same men, like a procession of monstrous, two-legged
crabs. Such a day was last Sunday, and then the beach offered a lively
image of its summer gayety. It was dotted with hundreds of hooded
chairs, which foregathered in gossiping groups or confidential couples;
and as the sun shone quite warm the flaps of the little tents next the
dunes were let down against it, and ladies in summer white saved
themselves from sunstroke in their shelter. The wooden booths for the
sale of candies and mineral waters, and beer and sandwiches, were flushed
with a sudden prosperity, so that when I went to buy my pound of grapes
from the good woman who understands my Dutch, I dreaded an indifference
in her which by no means appeared. She welcomed me as warmly as if I had
been her sole customer, and did not put up the price on me; perhaps
because it was already so very high that her imagination could not rise
above it.

The hotel showed the same admirable constancy. The restaurant was
thronged with new-comers, who spread out even over the many-tabled
esplanade before it; but it was in no wise demoralized. That night we
sat down in multiplied numbers to a table d'hote of serenely unconscious
perfection; and we permanent guests--alas! we are now becoming transient,
too--were used with unfaltering recognition of our superior worth. We
shared the respect which, all over Europe, attaches to establishment, and
which sometimes makes us poor Americans wish for a hereditary nobility,
so that we could all mirror our ancestral value in the deference of our
inferiors. Where we should get our inferiors is another thing, but I
suppose we could import them for the purpose, if the duties were not too
great under our tariff.

We have not yet imported the idea of a European hotel in any respect,
though we long ago imported what we call the European plan. No travelled
American knows it in the extortionate prices of rooms when he gets home,
or the preposterous charges of our restaurants, where one portion of
roast beef swimming in a lake of lukewarm juice costs as much as a
diversified and delicate dinner in Germany or Holland. But even if there
were any proportion in these things the European hotel will not be with
us till we have the European portier, who is its spring and inspiration.
He must not, dear home-keeping reader, be at all imagined in the moral or
material figure of our hotel porter, who appears always in his shirt-
sleeves, and speaks with the accent of Cork or of Congo. The European
portier wears a uniform, I do not know why, and a gold-banded cap, and he
inhabits a little office at the entrance of the hotel. He speaks eight
or ten languages, up to certain limit, rather better than people born to
them, and his presence commands an instant reverence softening to
affection under his universal helpfulness. There is nothing he cannot
tell you, cannot do for you; and you may trust yourself implicitly to
him. He has the priceless gift of making each nationality, each
personality, believe that he is devoted to its service alone. He turns
lightly from one language to another, as if he had each under his tongue,
and he answers simultaneously a fussy French woman, an angry English
tourist, a stiff Prussian major, and a thin-voiced American girl in
behalf of a timorous mother, and he never mixes the replies. He is an
inexhaustible bottle of dialects; but this is the least of his merits, of
his miracles.

Our portier here is a tall, slim Dutchman (most Dutchmen are tall and
slim), and in spite of the waning season he treats me as if I were
multitude, while at the same time he uses me with the distinction due the
last of his guests. Twenty times in as many hours he wishes me good-day,
putting his hand to his cap for the purpose; and to oblige me he wears
silver braid instead of gilt on his cap and coat. I apologized yesterday
for troubling him so often for stamps, and said that I supposed he was
much more bothered in the season.

"Between the first of August and the fifteenth," he answered, "you cannot
think. All that you can do is to say, Yes, No; Yes, No." And he left me
to imagine his responsibilities.

I am sure he will hold out to the end, and will smile me a friendly
farewell from the door of his office, which is also his dining-room, as I
know from often disturbing him at his meals there. I have no fear of the
waiters either, or of the little errand-boys who wear suits of sailor
blue, and touch their foreheads when they bring you your letters like so
many ancient sea-dogs. I do not know why the elevator-boy prefers a suit
of snuff-color; but I know that he will salute us as we step out of his
elevator for the last time as unfalteringly as if we had just arrived at
the beginning of the summer.


It is our last day in the hotel at Scheveningen, and I will try to recall
in their pathetic order the events of the final week.

Nothing has been stranger throughout than the fluctuation of the guests.
At times they have dwindled to so small a number that one must reckon
chiefly upon their quality for consolation; at other times they swelled
to such a tide as to overflow the table, long or short, at dinner, and
eddy round a second board beside it. There have been nights when I have
walked down the long corridor to my seaward room through a harking
solitude of empty chambers; there have been mornings when I have come out
to breakfast past door-mats cheerful with boots of both sexes, and door-
post hooks where dangling coats and trousers peopled the place with a
lively if a somewhat flaccid semblance of human presence. The worst was
that, when some one went, we lost a friend, and when some one came we
only won a stranger.

Among the first to go were the kindly English folk whose acquaintance we
made across the table the first night, and who took with them so large a
share of our facile affections that we quite forgot the ancestral
enmities, and grieved for them as much as if they had been Americans.
There have been, in fact, no Americans here but ourselves, and we have
done what we could with the Germans who spoke English. The nicest of
these were a charming family from F-----, father and mother, and son and
daughter, with whom we had a pleasant week of dinners. At the very first
we disagreed with the parents so amicably about Ibsen and Sudermann that
I was almost sorry to have the son take our modern side of the
controversy and declare himself an admirer of those authors with us.
Our frank literary difference established a kindness between us that was
strengthened by our community of English, and when they went they left us
to the sympathy of another German family with whom we had mainly our
humanity in common. They spoke no English, and I only a German which
they must have understood with their hearts rather than their heads,
since it consisted chiefly of good-will. But in the air of their sweet
natures it flourished surprisingly, and sufficed each day for praise of
the weather after it began to be fine, and at parting for some fond
regrets, not unmixed with philosophical reflections, sadly perplexed in
the genders and the order of the verbs: with me the verb will seldom
wait, as it should in German, to the end. Both of these families, very
different in social tradition, I fancied, were one in the amiability
which makes the alien forgive so much militarism to the German nation,
and hope for its final escape from the drill-sergeant. When they went,
we were left for some meals to our own American tongue, with a brief
interval of that English painter and his wife with whom we spoke, our
language as nearly like English as we could. Then followed a desperate
lunch and dinner where an unbroken forest of German, and a still more
impenetrable morass of Dutch, hemmed us in. But last night it was our
joy to be addressed in our own speech by a lady who spoke it as admirably
as our dear friends from F-----. She was Dutch, and when she found we
were Americans she praised our historian Motley, and told us how his
portrait is gratefully honored with a place in the Queen's palace, The
House in the Woods, near Scheveningen.


She had come up from her place in the country, four hours away, for the
last of the concerts here, which have been given throughout the summer by
the best orchestra in Europe, and which have been thronged every
afternoon and evening by people from The Hague.

One honored day this week even the Queen and the Queen Mother came down
to the concert, and gave us incomparably the greatest event of our waning
season. I had noticed all the morning a floral perturbation about the
main entrance of the hotel, which settled into the form of banks of
autumnal bloom on either side of the specially carpeted stairs, and put
forth on the roof of the arcade in a crown, much bigger round than a
barrel, of orange-colored asters, in honor of the Queen's ancestral house
of Orange. Flags of blue, white, and red fluttered nervously about in
the breeze from the sea, and imparted to us an agreeable anxiety not to
miss seeing the Queens, as the Dutch succinctly call their sovereign and
her parent; and at three o'clock we saw them drive up to the hotel.
Certain officials in civil dress stood at the door of the concert-room to
usher the Queens in, and a bareheaded, bald-headed dignity of military
figure backed up the stairs before them. I would not rashly commit
myself to particulars concerning their dress, but I am sure that the
elder Queen wore black, and the younger white. The mother has one of the
best and wisest faces I have seen any woman wear (and most of the good,
wise faces in this imperfectly balanced world are women's) and the
daughter one of the sweetest and prettiest. Pretty is the word for her
face, and it showed pink through her blond veil, as she smiled and bowed
right and left; her features are small and fine, and she is not above the
middle height.

As soon as she had passed into the concert-room, we who had waited to see
her go in ran round to another door and joined the two or three thousand
people who were standing to receive the Queens. These had already
mounted to the royal box, and they stood there while the orchestra played
one of the Dutch national airs. (One air is not enough for the Dutch;
they must have two.) Then the mother faded somewhere into the
background, and the daughter sat alone in the front, on a gilt throne,
with a gilt crown at top, and a very uncomfortable carved Gothic back.
She looked so young, so gentle, and so good that the rudest Republican
could not have helped wishing her well out of a position so essentially
and irreparably false as a hereditary sovereign's. One forgot in the
presence of her innocent seventeen years that most of the ruling princes
of the world had left it the worse for their having been in it; at
moments one forgot her altogether as a princess, and saw her only as a
charming young girl, who had to sit up rather stiffly.

At the end of the programme the Queens rose and walked slowly out, while
the orchestra played the other national air.


I call them the Queens, because the Dutch do; and I like Holland so much
that I should hate to differ with the Dutch in anything. But, as a
matter of fact, they are neither of them quite Queens; the mother is the
regent and the daughter will not be crowned till next year.

But, such as they are, they imparted a supreme emotion to our dying
season, and thrilled the hotel with a fulness of summer life. Since they
went, the season faintly pulses and respires, so that one can just say
that it is still alive. Last Sunday was fine, and great crowds came down
from The Hague to the concert, and spread out on the seaward terrace of
the hotel, around the little tables which I fancied that the waiters had
each morning wiped dry of the dew, from a mere Dutch desire of cleaning
something. The hooded chairs covered the beach; the children played in
the edges of the surf and delved in the sand; the lovers wandered up into
the hollows of the dunes.

There was only the human life, however. I have looked in vain for the
crabs, big and little, that swarm on the Long Island shore, and there are
hardly any gulls, even; perhaps because there are no crabs for them to
eat, if they eat crabs; I never saw gulls doing it, but they must eat
something. Dogs there are, of course, wherever there are people; but
they are part of the human life. Dutch dogs are in fact very human; and
one I saw yesterday behaved quite as badly as a bad boy, with respect to
his muzzle. He did not like his muzzle, and by dint of turning
somersaults in the sand he got it off, and went frolicking to his master
in triumph to show him what he had done.


It is now the last day, and the desolation is thickening upon our hotel.
This morning the door-posts up and down my corridor showed not a single
pair of trousers; not a pair of boots flattered the lonely doormats. In
the lower hall I found the tables of the great dining-room assembled, and
the chairs inverted on them with their legs in the air; but decently,
decorously, not with the reckless abandon displayed by the chairs in our
Long Island hotel for weeks before it closed. In the smaller dining-room
the table was set for lunch as if we were to go on dining there forever;
in the breakfast-room the service and the provision were as perfect as
ever. The coffee was good, the bread delicious, the butter of an
unfaltering sweetness; and the glaze of wear on the polished dress-coats
of the waiters as respectable as it could have been on the first day of
the season. All was correct, and if of a funereal correctness to me, I
am sure this effect was purely subjective.

The little bell-boys in sailor suits (perhaps they ought to be spelled
bell-buoys) clustered about the elevator-boy like so many Roman sentinels
at their posts; the elevator-boy and his elevator were ready to take us
up or down at any moment.

The portier and I ignored together the hour of parting, which we had
definitely ascertained and agreed upon, and we exchanged some compliments
to the weather, which is now settled, as if we expected to enjoy it long
together. I rather dread going in to lunch, however, for I fear the
empty places.


All is over; we are off. The lunch was an heroic effort of the hotel to
hide the fact of our separation. It was perfect, unless the boiled beef
was a confession of human weakness; but even this boiled beef was
exquisite, and the horseradish that went with it was so mellowed by art
that it checked rather than provoked the parting tear. The table d'hote
had reserved a final surprise for us; and when we sat down with the fear
of nothing but German around us, we heard the sound of our own speech
from the pleasantest English pair we had yet encountered; and the
travelling English are pleasant; I will say it, who am said by Sir Walter
Besant to be the only American who hates their nation. It was really an
added pang to go, on their account, but the carriage was waiting at the
door; the 'domestique' had already carried our baggage to the steam-tram
station; the kindly menial train formed around us for an ultimate
'douceur', and we were off, after the 'portier' had shut us into our
vehicle and touched his oft-touched cap for the last time, while the
hotel facade dissembled its grief by architecturally smiling in the soft
Dutch sun.

I liked this manner of leaving better than carrying part of my own
baggage to the train, as I had to do on Long Island, though that, too,
had its charm; the charm of the whole fresh, pungent American life, which
at this distance is so dear.

LITERATURE AND LIFE--Some Anomalies of the Short Story

by William Dean Howells


The interesting experiment of one of our great publishing houses in
putting out serially several volumes of short stories, with the hope that
a courageous persistence may overcome the popular indifference to such
collections when severally administered, suggests some questions as to
this eldest form of fiction which I should like to ask the reader's
patience with. I do not know that I shall be able to answer them, or
that I shall try to do so; the vitality of a question that is answered
seems to exhale in the event; it palpitates no longer; curiosity flutters
away from the faded flower, which is fit then only to be folded away in
the 'hortus siccus' of accomplished facts. In view of this I may wish
merely to state the problems and leave them for the reader's solution,
or, more amusingly, for his mystification.


One of the most amusing questions concerning the short story is why a
form which is singly so attractive that every one likes to read a short
story when he finds it alone is collectively so repellent as it is said
to be. Before now I have imagined the case to be somewhat the same as
that of a number of pleasant people who are most acceptable as separate
householders, but who lose caste and cease to be desirable acquaintances
when gathered into a boarding-house.

Yet the case is not the same quite, for we see that the short story where
it is ranged with others of its species within the covers of a magazine
is so welcome that the editor thinks his number the more brilliant the
more short story writers he can call about his board, or under the roof
of his pension. Here the boardinghouse analogy breaks, breaks so
signally that I was lately moved to ask a distinguished editor why a book
of short stories usually failed and a magazine usually succeeded because
of them. He answered, gayly, that the short stories in most books of
them were bad; that where they were good, they went; and he alleged
several well-known instances in which books of prime short stories had a
great vogue. He was so handsomely interested in my inquiry that I could
not well say I thought some of the short stories which he had boasted in
his last number were indifferent good, and yet, as he allowed, had mainly
helped sell it. I had in mind many books of short stories of the first
excellence which had failed as decidedly as those others had succeeded,
for no reason that I could see; possibly there is really no reason in any
literary success or failure that can be predicted, or applied in another

I could name these books, if it would serve any purpose, but, in my
doubt, I will leave the reader to think of them, for I believe that his
indolence or intellectual reluctance is largely to blame for the failure
of good books of short stories. He is commonly so averse to any
imaginative exertion that he finds it a hardship to respond to that
peculiar demand which a book of good short stories makes upon him. He
can read one good short story in a magazine with refreshment, and a
pleasant sense of excitement, in the sort of spur it gives to his own
constructive faculty. But, if this is repeated in ten or twenty stories,
he becomes fluttered and exhausted by the draft upon his energies;
whereas a continuous fiction of the same quantity acts as an agreeable
sedative. A condition that the short story tacitly makes with the
reader, through its limitations, is that he shall subjectively fill in
the details and carry out the scheme which in its small dimensions the
story can only suggest; and the greater number of readers find this too
much for their feeble powers, while they cannot resist the incitement to
attempt it.

My theory does not wholly account for the fact (no theory wholly accounts
for any fact), and I own that the same objections would lie from the
reader against a number of short stories in a magazine. But it may be
that the effect is not the same in the magazine because of the variety in
the authorship, and because it would be impossibly jolting to read all
the short stories in a magazine 'seriatim'. On the other hand, the
identity of authorship gives a continuity of attraction to the short
stories in a book which forms that exhausting strain upon the imagination
of the involuntary co-partner.


Then, what is the solution as to the form of publication for short
stories, since people do not object to them singly but collectively, and
not in variety, but in identity of authorship? Are they to be printed
only in the magazines, or are they to be collected in volumes combining a
variety of authorship? Rather, I could wish, it might be found feasible
to purvey them in some pretty shape where each would appeal singly to the
reader and would not exhaust him in the subjective after-work required of
him. In this event many short stories now cramped into undue limits by
the editorial exigencies of the magazines might expand to greater length
and breadth, and without ceasing to be each a short story might not make
so heavy a demand upon the subliminal forces of the reader.

If any one were to say that all this was a little fantastic, I should not
contradict him; but I hope there is some reason in it, if reason can help
the short story to greater favor, for it is a form which I have great
pleasure in as a reader, and pride in as an American. If we have not
excelled all other moderns in it, we have certainly excelled in it;
possibly because we are in the period of our literary development which
corresponds to that of other peoples when the short story pre-eminently
flourished among them. But when one has said a thing like this, it
immediately accuses one of loose and inaccurate statement, and requires
one to refine upon it, either for one's own peace of conscience or for
one's safety from the thoughtful reader. I am not much afraid of that
sort of reader, for he is very rare, but I do like to know myself what I
mean, if I mean anything in particular.

In this instance I am obliged to ask myself whether our literary
development can be recognized separately from that of the whole English-
speaking world. I think it can, though, as I am always saying American
literature is merely a condition of English literature. In some sense
every European literature is a condition of some other European
literature, yet the impulse in each eventuates, if it does not originate
indigenously. A younger literature will choose, by a sort of natural
selection, some things for assimilation from an elder literature, for no
more apparent reason than it will reject other things, and it will
transform them in the process so that it will give them the effect of
indigeneity. The short story among the Italians, who called it the
novella, and supplied us with the name devoted solely among us to fiction
of epical magnitude, refined indefinitely upon the Greek romance, if it
derived from that; it retrenched itself in scope, and enlarged itself in
the variety of its types. But still these remained types, and they
remained types with the French imitators of the Italian novella. It was
not till the Spaniards borrowed the form of the novella and transplanted
it to their racier soil that it began to bear character, and to fruit in
the richness of their picaresque fiction. When the English borrowed it
they adapted it, in the metrical tales of Chaucer, to the genius of their
nation, which was then both poetical and humorous. Here it was full of
character, too, and more and more personality began to enlarge the bounds
of the conventional types and to imbue fresh ones. But in so far as the
novella was studied in the Italian sources, the French, Spanish, and
English literatures were conditions of Italian literature as distinctly,
though, of course, not so thoroughly, as American literature is a
condition of English literature. Each borrower gave a national cast to
the thing borrowed, and that is what has happened with us, in the full
measure that our nationality has differenced itself from the English.

Whatever truth there is in all this, and I will confess that a good deal
of it seems to me hardy conjecture, rather favors my position that we are
in some such period of our literary development as those other peoples
when the short story flourished among them. Or, if I restrict our claim,
I may safely claim that they abundantly had the novella when they had not
the novel at all, and we now abundantly have the novella, while we have
the novel only subordinately and of at least no such quantitative
importance as the English, French, Spanish, Norwegians, Russians, and
some others of our esteemed contemporaries, not to name the Italians. We
surpass the Germans, who, like ourselves, have as distinctly excelled in
the modern novella as they have fallen short in the novel. Or, if I may
not quite say this, I will make bold to say that I can think of many
German novelle that I should like to read again, but scarcely one German
novel; and I could honestly say the same of American novelle, though not
of American novels.


The abeyance, not to say the desuetude, that the novella fell into for
several centuries is very curious, and fully as remarkable as the modern
rise of the short story. It began to prevail in the dramatic form, for a
play is a short story put on the stage; it may have satisfied in that
form the early love of it, and it has continued to please in that form;
but in its original shape it quite vanished, unless we consider the
little studies and sketches and allegories of the Spectator and Tatler
and Idler and Rambler and their imitations on the Continent as guises of
the novella. The germ of the modern short story may have survived in
these, or in the metrical form of the novella which appeared in Chaucer
and never wholly disappeared. With Crabbe the novella became as
distinctly the short story as it has become in the hands of Miss Wilkins.
But it was not till our time that its great merit as a form was felt, for
until our time so great work was never done with it. I remind myself of
Boccaccio, and of the Arabian Nights, without the wish to hedge from my
bold stand. They are all elemental; compared with some finer modern work
which deepens inward immeasurably, they are all of their superficial
limits. They amuse, but they do not hold, the mind and stamp it with
large and profound impressions.

An Occidental cannot judge the literary quality of the Eastern tales; but
I will own my suspicion that the perfection of the Italian work is
philological rather than artistic, while the web woven by Mr. James or
Miss Jewett, by Kielland or Bjornson, by Maupassant, by Palacio Valdes,
by Giovanni Verga, by Tourguenief, in one of those little frames seems to
me of an exquisite color and texture and of an entire literary
preciousness, not only as regards the diction, but as regards those more
intangible graces of form, those virtues of truth and reality, and those
lasting significances which distinguish the masterpiece.

The novella has in fact been carried so far in the short story that it
might be asked whether it had not left the novel behind, as to perfection
of form; though one might not like to affirm this. Yet there have been
but few modern fictions of the novel's dimensions which have the beauty
of form many a novella embodies. Is this because it is easier to give
form in the small than in the large, or only because it is easier to hide
formlessness? It is easier to give form in the novella than in the
novel, because the design of less scope can be more definite, and because
the persons and facts are fewer, and each can be more carefully treated.
But, on the other hand, the slightest error in execution shows more in
the small than in the large, and a fault of conception is more evident.
The novella must be clearly imagined, above all things, for there is no
room in it for those felicities of characterization or comment by which
the artist of faltering design saves himself in the novel.


The question as to where the short story distinguishes itself from the
anecdote is of the same nature as that which concerns the bound set
between it and the novel. In both cases the difference of the novella is
in the motive, or the origination. The anecdote is too palpably simple
and single to be regarded as a novella, though there is now and then a
novella like The Father, by Bjornson, which is of the actual brevity of
the anecdote, but which, when released in the reader's consciousness,
expands to dramatic dimensions impossible to the anecdote. Many
anecdotes have come down from antiquity, but not, I believe, one short
story, at least in prose; and the Italians, if they did not invent the
story, gave us something most sensibly distinguishable from the classic
anecdote in the novella. The anecdote offers an illustration of
character, or records a moment of action; the novella embodies a drama
and develops a type.

It is not quite so clear as to when and where a piece of fiction ceases
to be a novella and becomes a novel. The frontiers are so vague that one
is obliged to recognize a middle species, or rather a middle magnitude,
which paradoxically, but necessarily enough, we call the novelette.
First we have the short story, or novella, then we have the long story,
or novel, and between these we have the novelette, which is in name a
smaller than the short story, though it is in point of fact two or three
times longer than a short story. We may realize them physically if we
will adopt the magazine parlance and speak of the novella as a one-number
story, of the novel as a serial, and of the novelette as a two-number or
a three-number story; if it passes the three-number limit it seems to
become a novel. As a two-number or three-number story it is the despair
of editors and publishers. The interest of so brief a serial will not
mount sufficiently to carry strongly over from month to month; when the
tale is completed it will not make a book which the Trade (inexorable
force!) cares to handle. It is therefore still awaiting its
authoritative avatar, which it will be some one's prosperity and glory to
imagine; for in the novelette are possibilities for fiction as yet
scarcely divined.

The novelette can have almost as perfect form as the novella. In fact,
the novel has form in the measure that it approaches the novelette; and
some of the most symmetrical modern novels are scarcely more than
novelettes, like Tourguenief's Dmitri Rudine, or his Smoke, or Spring
Floods. The Vicar of Wakefield, the father of the modern novel, is
scarcely more than a novelette, and I have sometimes fancied, but no
doubt vainly, that the ultimated novel might be of the dimensions of
Hamlet. If any one should say there was not room in Hamlet for the
character and incident requisite in a novel, I should be ready to answer
that there seemed a good deal of both in Hamlet.

But no doubt there are other reasons why the novel should not finally be
of the length of Hamlet, and I must not let my enthusiasm for the
novelette carry me too far, or, rather, bring me up too short. I am
disposed to dwell upon it, I suppose, because it has not yet shared the
favor which the novella and the novel have enjoyed, and because until
somebody invents a way for it to the public it cannot prosper like the
one-number story or the serial. I should like to say as my last word for
it here that I believe there are many novels which, if stripped of their
padding, would turn out to have been all along merely novelettes in

It does not follow, however, that there are many novelle which, if they
were duly padded, would be found novelettes. In that dim, subjective
region where the aesthetic origins present themselves almost with the
authority of inspirations there is nothing clearer than the difference
between the short-story motive and the long-story motive. One, if one is
in that line of work, feels instinctively just the size and carrying
power of the given motive. Or, if the reader prefers a different figure,
the mind which the seed has been dropped into from Somewhere is
mystically aware whether the seed is going to grow up a bush or is going
to grow up a tree, if left to itself. Of course, the mind to which the
seed is intrusted may play it false, and wilfully dwarf the growth, or
force it to unnatural dimensions; but the critical observer will easily
detect the fact of such treasons. Almost in the first germinal impulse
the inventive mind forefeels the ultimate difference and recognizes the
essential simplicity or complexity of the motive. There will be a
prophetic subdivision into a variety of motives and a multiplication of
characters and incidents and situations; or the original motive will be
divined indivisible, and there will be a small group of people
immediately interested and controlled by a single, or predominant, fact.
The uninspired may contend that this is bosh, and I own that something
might be said for their contention, but upon the whole I think it is

The right novel is never a congeries of novelle, as might appear to the
uninspired. If it indulges even in episodes, it loses in reality and
vitality. It is one stock from which its various branches put out, and
form it a living growth identical throughout. The right novella is never
a novel cropped back from the size of a tree to a bush, or the branch of
a tree stuck into the ground and made to serve for a bush. It is another
species, destined by the agencies at work in the realm of unconsciousness
to be brought into being of its own kind, and not of another.


This was always its case, but in the process of time the short story,
while keeping the natural limits of the primal novella (if ever there was
one), has shown almost limitless possibilities within them. It has shown
itself capable of imparting the effect of every sort of intention,
whether of humor or pathos, of tragedy or comedy or broad farce or
delicate irony, of character or action. The thing that first made itself
known as a little tale, usually salacious, dealing with conventionalized
types and conventionalized incidents, has proved itself possibly the most
flexible of all the literary forms in its adaptation to the needs of the
mind that wishes to utter itself, inventively or constructively, upon
some fresh occasion, or wishes briefly to criticise or represent some
phase or fact of life.

The riches in this shape of fiction are effectively inestimable, if we
consider what has been done in the short story, and is still doing
everywhere. The good novels may be easily counted, but the good novelle,
since Boccaccio began (if it was he that first began) to make them,
cannot be computed. In quantity they are inexhaustible, and in quality
they are wonderfully satisfying. Then, why is it that so very, very few
of the most satisfactory of that innumerable multitude stay by you, as
the country people say, in characterization or action? How hard it is to
recall a person or a fact out of any of them, out of the most signally
good! We seem to be delightfully nourished as we read, but is it, after
all, a full meal? We become of a perfect intimacy and a devoted
friendship with the men and women in the short stories, but not
apparently of a lasting acquaintance. It is a single meeting we have
with them, and though we instantly love or hate them dearly, recurrence
and repetition seem necessary to that familiar knowledge in which we hold
the personages in a novel.

It is here that the novella, so much more perfect in form, shows its
irremediable inferiority to the novel, and somehow to the play, to the
very farce, which it may quantitatively excel. We can all recall by name
many characters out of comedies and farces; but how many characters out
of short stories can we recall? Most persons of the drama give
themselves away by name for types, mere figments of allegory, and perhaps
oblivion is the penalty that the novella pays for the fineness of its
characterizations; but perhaps, also, the dramatic form has greater
facilities for repetition, and so can stamp its persons more indelibly on
the imagination than the narrative form in the same small space. The
narrative must give to description what the drama trusts to
representation; but this cannot account for the superior permanency of
the dramatic types in so great measure as we might at first imagine, for
they remain as much in mind from reading as from seeing the plays. It is
possible that as the novella becomes more conscious, its persons will
become more memorable; but as it is, though we now vividly and with
lasting delight remember certain short stories, we scarcely remember by
name any of the people in them. I may be risking too much in offering an
instance, but who, in even such signal instances as The Revolt of Mother,
by Miss Wilkins, or The Dulham Ladies, by Miss Jewett, can recall by name
the characters that made them delightful?


The defect of the novella which we have been acknowledging seems an
essential limitation; but perhaps it is not insuperable; and we may yet
have short stories which shall supply the delighted imagination with
creations of as much immortality as we can reasonably demand. The
structural change would not be greater than the moral or material change
which has been wrought in it since it began as a yarn, gross and
palpable, which the narrator spun out of the coarsest and often the
filthiest stuff, to snare the thick fancy or amuse the lewd leisure of
listeners willing as children to have the same persons and the same
things over and over again. Now it has not only varied the persons and
things, but it has refined and verified them in the direction of the
natural and the supernatural, until it is above all other literary forms
the vehicle of reality and spirituality. When one thinks of a bit of Mr.
James's psychology in this form, or a bit of Verga's or Kielland's
sociology, or a bit of Miss Jewett's exquisite veracity, one perceives
the immense distance which the short story has come on the way to the
height it has reached. It serves equally the ideal and the real; that
which it is loath to serve is the unreal, so that among the short stories
which have recently made reputations for their authors very few are of
that peculiar cast which we have no name for but romanticistic. The only
distinguished modern writer of romanticistic novelle whom I can think of
is Mr. Bret Harte, and he is of a period when romanticism was so
imperative as to be almost a condition of fiction. I am never so
enamoured of a cause that I will not admit facts that seem to tell
against it, and I will allow that this writer of romanticistic short
stories has more than any other supplied us with memorable types and
characters. We remember Mr. John Oakhurst by name; we remember Kentuck
and Tennessee's Partner, at least by nickname; and we remember their
several qualities. These figures, if we cannot quite consent that they
are persons, exist in our memories by force of their creator's
imagination, and at the moment I cannot think of any others that do,
out of the myriad of American short stories, except Rip Van Winkle out of
Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Marjorie Daw out of Mr. Aldrich's
famous little caprice of that title, and Mr. James's Daisy Miller.

It appears to be the fact that those writers who have first distinguished
themselves in the novella have seldom written novels of prime order.
Mr. Kipling is an eminent example, but Mr. Kipling has yet a long life
before him in which to upset any theory about him, and one can only
instance him provisionally. On the other hand, one can be much more
confident that the best novelle have been written by the greatest
novelists, conspicuously Maupassant, Verga, Bjornson, Mr. Thomas Hardy,
Mr. James, Mr. Cable, Tourguenief, Tolstoy, Valdes, not to name others.
These have, in fact, all done work so good in this form that one is
tempted to call it their best work. It is really not their best, but it
is work so good that it ought to have equal acceptance with their novels,
if that distinguished editor was right who said that short stories sold
well when they were good short stories. That they ought to do so is so
evident that a devoted reader of them, to whom I was submitting the
anomaly the other day, insisted that they did. I could only allege the
testimony of publishers and authors to the contrary, and this did not
satisfy him.

It does not satisfy me, and I wish that the general reader, with whom the
fault lies, could be made to say why, if he likes one short story by
itself and four short stories in a magazine, he does not like, or will
not have, a dozen short stories in a book. This was the baffling
question which I began with and which I find myself forced to end with,
after all the light I have thrown upon the subject. I leave it where I
found it, but perhaps that is a good deal for a critic to do. If I had
left it anywhere else the reader might not feel bound to deal with it
practically by reading all the books of short stories he could lay hands
on, and either divining why he did not enjoy them, or else forever
foregoing his prejudice against them because of his pleasure in them.

LITERATURE AND LIFE--Spanish Prisoners of War

by William Dean Howells


Certain summers ago our cruisers, the St. Louis and the Harvard, arrived
at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with sixteen or seventeen hundred Spanish
prisoners from Santiago de Cuba. They were partly soldiers of the land
forces picked up by our troops in the fights before the city, but by far
the greater part were sailors and marines from Cervera's ill-fated fleet.
I have not much stomach for war, but the poetry of the fact I have stated
made a very potent appeal to me on my literary side, and I did not hold
out against it longer than to let the St. Louis get away with Cervera to
Annapolis, when only her less dignified captives remained with those of
the Harvard to feed either the vainglory or the pensive curiosity of the
spectator. Then I went over from our summer colony to Kittery Point, and
got a boat, and sailed out to have a look at these subordinate enemies in
the first hours of their imprisonment.


It was an afternoon of the brilliancy known only to an afternoon of the
American summer, and the water of the swift Piscataqua River glittered in
the sun with a really incomparable brilliancy. But nothing could light
up the great monster of a ship, painted the dismal lead-color which our
White Squadrons put on with the outbreak of the war, and she lay sullen
in the stream with a look of ponderous repose, to which the activities of
the coaling-barges at her side, and of the sailors washing her decks,
seemed quite unrelated. A long gun forward and a long gun aft threatened
the fleet of launches, tugs, dories, and cat-boats which fluttered about
her, but the Harvard looked tired and bored, and seemed as if asleep.
She had, in fact, finished her mission. The captives whom death had
released had been carried out and sunk in the sea; those who survived to
a further imprisonment had all been taken to the pretty island a mile
farther up in the river, where the tide rushes back and forth through the
Narrows like a torrent. Its defiant rapidity has won it there the
graphic name of Pull-and-be-Damned; and we could only hope to reach the
island by a series of skilful tacks, which should humor both the wind and
the tide, both dead against us. Our boatman, one of those shore New
Englanders who are born with a knowledge of sailing, was easily master of
the art of this, but it took time, and gave me more than the leisure I
wanted for trying to see the shore with the strange eyes of the captives
who had just looked upon it. It was beautiful, I had to own, even in my
quality of exile and prisoner. The meadows and the orchards came down to
the water, or, where the wandering line of the land was broken and lifted
in black fronts of rock, they crept to the edge of the cliff and peered
over it. A summer hotel stretched its verandas along a lovely level;
everywhere in clovery hollows and on breezy knolls were gray old farm-
houses and summer cottages-like weather-beaten birds' nests, and like
freshly painted marten-boxes; but all of a cold New England neatness
which made me homesick for my malodorous Spanish fishing-village,
shambling down in stony lanes to the warm tides of my native seas. Here,
every place looked as if it had been newly scrubbed with soap and water,
and rubbed down with a coarse towel, and was of an antipathetic
alertness. The sweet, keen breeze made me shiver, and the northern sky,
from which my blinding southern sun was blazing, was as hard as sapphire.
I tried to bewilder myself in the ignorance of a Catalonian or Asturian
fisherman, and to wonder with his darkened mind why it should all or any
of it have been, and why I should have escaped from the iron hell in
which I had fought no quarrel of my own to fall into the hands of
strangers, and to be haled over seas to these alien shores for a
captivity of unknown term. But I need not have been at so much pains;
the intelligence (I do not wish to boast) of an American author would
have sufficed; for if there is anything more grotesque than another in
war it is its monstrous inconsequence. If we had a grief with the
Spanish government, and if it was so mortal we must do murder for it, we
might have sent a joint committee of the House and Senate, and, with the
improved means of assassination which modern science has put at our
command, killed off the Spanish cabinet, and even the queen--mother and
the little king. This would have been consequent, logical, and in a sort
reasonable; but to butcher and capture a lot of wretched Spanish peasants
and fishermen, hapless conscripts to whom personally and nationally we
were as so many men in the moon, was that melancholy and humiliating
necessity of war which makes it homicide in which there is not even the
saving grace of hate, or the excuse of hot blood.

I was able to console myself perhaps a little better for the captivity of
the Spaniards than if I had really been one of them, as we drew nearer
and nearer their prison isle, and it opened its knotty points and little
ravines, overrun with sweet-fern, blueberry-bushes, bay, and low
blackberry-vines, and rigidly traversed with a high stockade of yellow
pine boards. Six or eight long, low, wooden barracks stretched side by
side across the general slope, with the captive officers' quarters,
sheathed in weather-proof black paper, at one end of them. About their
doors swarmed the common prisoners, spilling out over the steps and on
the grass, where some of them lounged smoking. One operatic figure in a
long blanket stalked athwart an open space; but there was such poverty of
drama in the spectacle at the distance we were keeping that we were glad
of so much as a shirt-sleeved contractor driving out of the stockade in
his buggy. On the heights overlooking the enclosure Gatling guns were
posted at three or four points, and every thirty or forty feet sentries
met and parted, so indifferent to us, apparently, that we wondered if we
might get nearer. We ventured, but at a certain moment a sentry called to
us, "Fifty yards off, please!" Our young skipper answered, "All right,"
and as the sentry had a gun on his shoulder which we had every reason to
believe was loaded, it was easily our pleasure to retreat to the
specified limit. In fact, we came away altogether, after that, so little
promise was there of our being able to satisfy our curiosity further.
We came away care fully nursing such impression as we had got of a spec
tacle whose historical quality we did our poor best to feel. It related
us, after solicitation, to the wars against the Moors, against the
Mexicans and Peruvians, against the Dutch; to the Italian campaigns of
the Gran Capitan, to the Siege of Florence, to the Sack of Rome, to the
wars of the Spanish Succession, and what others. I do not deny that
there was a certain aesthetic joy in having the Spanish prisoners there
for this effect; we came away duly grateful for what we had seen of them;
and we had long duly resigned ourselves to seeing no more, when word was
sent to us that our young skipper had got a permit to visit the island,
and wished us to go with him.


It was just such another afternoon when we went again, but this time we
took the joyous trolley-car, and bounded and pirouetted along as far as
the navyyard of Kittery, and there we dismounted and walked among the
vast, ghostly ship-sheds, so long empty of ships. The grass grew in the
Kittery navy-yard, but it was all the pleasanter for the grass, and those
pale, silent sheds were far more impressive in their silence than they
would have been if resonant with saw and hammer. At several points, an
unarmed marine left his leisure somewhere, and lunged across our path
with a mute appeal for our permit; but we were nowhere delayed till we
came to the office where it had to be countersigned, and after that we
had presently crossed a bridge, by shady, rustic ways, and were on the
prison island. Here, if possible, the sense of something pastoral
deepened; a man driving a file of cows passed before us under kindly
trees, and the bell which the foremost of these milky mothers wore about
her silken throat sent forth its clear, tender note as if from the depth
of some grassy bosk, and instantly witched me away to the woods-pastures
which my boyhood knew in southern Ohio. Even when we got to what seemed
fortifications they turned out to be the walls of an old reservoir, and
bore on their gate a paternal warning that children unaccompanied by
adults were not allowed within.

We mounted some stone steps over this portal and were met by a young
marine, who left his Gatling gun for a moment to ask for our permit, and
then went back satisfied. Then we found ourselves in the presence of a
sentry with a rifle on his shoulder, who was rather more exacting.
Still, he only wished to be convinced, and when he had pointed out the
headquarters where we were next to go, he let us over his beat. At the
headquarters there was another sentry, equally serious, but equally
civil, and with the intervention of an orderly our leader saw the officer
of the day. He came out of the quarters looking rather blank, for he had
learned that his pass admitted our party to the lines, but not to the
stockade, which we might approach, at a certain point of vantage and look
over into, but not penetrate. We resigned ourselves, as we must, and
made what we could of the nearest prison barrack, whose door overflowed
and whose windows swarmed with swarthy captives. Here they were, at such
close quarters that their black, eager eyes easily pierced the pockets
full of cigarettes which we had brought for them. They looked mostly
very young, and there was one smiling rogue at the first window who was
obviously prepared to catch anything thrown to him. He caught, in fact,
the first box of cigarettes shied over the stockade; the next box flew
open, and spilled its precious contents outside the dead-line under the
window, where I hope some compassionate guard gathered them up and gave
them to the captives.

Our fellows looked capable of any kindness to their wards short of
letting them go. They were a most friendly company, with an effect of
picnicking there among the sweet-fern and blueberries, where they had
pitched their wooden tents with as little disturbance to the shrubbery as
possible. They were very polite to us, and when, after that misadventure
with the cigarettes (I had put our young leader up to throwing the box,
merely supplying the corpus delicti myself), I wandered vaguely towards a
Gatling gun planted on an earthen platform where the laurel and the
dogroses had been cut away for it, the man in charge explained with a
smile of apology that I must not pass a certain path I had already

One always accepts the apologies of a man with a Gatling gun to back
them, and I retreated. That seemed the end; and we were going
crestfallenly away when the officer of the day came out and allowed us to
make his acquaintance. He permitted us, with laughing reluctance, to
learn that he had been in the fight at Santiago, and had come with the
prisoners, and he was most obligingly sorry that our permit did not let
us into the stockade. I said I had some cigarettes for the prisoners,
and I supposed I might send them; in, but he said he could not allow
this, for they had money to buy tobacco; and he answered another of our
party, who had not a soul above buttons, and who asked if she could get
one from the Spaniards, that so far from promoting her wish, he would
have been obliged to take away any buttons she might have got from them.

"The fact is," he explained, "you've come to the wrong end for
transactions in buttons and tobacco."

But perhaps innocence so great as ours had wrought upon him. When we
said we were going, and thanked him for his unavailing good-will, he
looked at his watch and said they were just going to feed the prisoners;
and after some parley he suddenly called out, "Music of the guard!"
Instead of a regimental band, which I had supposed summoned, a single
corporal ran out the barracks, touching his cap.

"Take this party round to the gate," the officer said, and he promised us
that he would see us there, and hoped we would not mind a rough walk. We
could have answered that to see his prisoners fed we would wade through
fathoms of red-tape; but in fact we were arrested at the last point by
nothing worse than the barbed wire which fortified the outer gate. Here
two marines were willing to tell us how well the prisoners lived, while
we stared into the stockade through an inner gate of plank which was run
back for us. They said the Spaniards had a breakfast of coffee, and hash
or stew and potatoes, and a dinner of soup and roast; and now at five
o'clock they were to have bread and coffee, which indeed we saw the
white-capped, whitejacketed cooks bringing out in huge tin wash-boilers.
Our marines were of opinion, and no doubt rightly, that these poor
Spaniards had never known in their lives before what it was to have full
stomachs. But the marines said they never acknowledged it, and the one
who had a German accent intimated that gratitude was not a virtue of any
Roman (I suppose he meant Latin) people. But I do not know that if I
were a prisoner, for no fault of my own, I should be very explicitly
thankful for being unusually well fed. I thought (or I think now) that a
fig or a bunch of grapes would have been more acceptable to me under my
own vine and fig-tree than the stew and roast of captors who were indeed
showing themselves less my enemies than my own government, but were still
not quite my hosts.


How is it the great pieces of good luck fall to us? The clock strikes
twelve as it strikes two, and with no more premonition. As we stood
there expecting nothing better of it than three at the most, it suddenly
struck twelve. Our officer appeared at the inner gate and bade our
marines slide away the gate of barbed wire and let us into the enclosure,
where he welcomed us to seats on the grass against the stockade, with
many polite regrets that the tough little knots of earth beside it were
not chairs.

The prisoners were already filing out of their quarters, at a rapid trot
towards the benches where those great wash-boilers of coffee were set.
Each man had a soup-plate and bowl of enamelled tin, and each in his turn
received quarter of a loaf of fresh bread and a big ladleful of steaming
coffee, which he made off with to his place at one of the long tables
under a shed at the side of the stockade. One young fellow tried to get
a place not his own in the shade, and our officer when he came back
explained that he was a guerrillero, and rather unruly. We heard that
eight of the prisoners were in irons, by sentence of their own officers,
for misconduct, but all save this guerrillero here were docile and
obedient enough, and seemed only too glad to get peacefully at their
bread and coffee.

First among them came the men of the Cristobal Colon, and these were the
best looking of all the captives. From their pretty fair average the


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