The Forerunner, Volume 1 (1909-1910)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Part 6 out of 18
few--"Well--you may try the week," she said. "I'll show you your room.
And what is your name?"
LITTLE LEAFY BROTHERS
Little, leafy brothers! You can feel
Warmth o' the sun,
Cool sap-streams run,
The slow, soft, nuzzling creep
Of roots sent deep,
And a close-anchored flowing
In winds smooth-blowing.
And in the Spring! the Spring!
When the stars sing--
The world's love in you grows
Into the rose!
Little hairy brothers! You can feel
The kind sun too;
Winds play with you,
Water is live delight;
In your swift flight
Of wings or leaping feet
Life rushes sweet--
And in the Spring! the Spring!
When the stars sing--
The world's love stirs you first
To wild, sweet thirst,
Mad combat glorious, and so
To what you know
Of love in living. Yes, to you first came
The joy past name
Of interchange--the small mouth pressed
To the warm, willing breast.
But O! the human brothers! We can feel
All, all below
These small ones know;
Earth fair and good,
The bubbling flood
Of life a-growing--in us multiplied
As man spreads wide;
Not into leaves alone,
Nor flesh and bone,
But roof and wall and wheel
Of stone and steel;
Soft foliage and gorgeous bloom
Of humming loom;
And fruit of joy o'er-burdened heart
Poured forth in Art!
We can not only leap in the sun,
Wrestle and run,
But know the music-measured beat
Of dancing feet,
The interplay of hands--we hold
Delight of doing, myriad-fold.
Joy of the rose, we know--
To bloom--to grow!--
Joy of the beast we prove--
To strive--to move!
And in the Spring! the Spring!
When the stars sing,
Wide gladness of all living men
Comes back again,
A conscious universe at rest
In one's own breast!
The world's love! Wholly ours;
Through breathing flowers,
Through all the living tumult of the wood,
In us made good;
Through centuries that rise and fall--
We hold it all!
The world's love! Given music, fit
To carry it.
The world's love! Given words at last, to speak,
Though yet so weak.
The world's love! Given hands that hold so much,
Lips that may touch!
The worlds's love! Sweet!--it lies
In your dear eyes!
OUR ANDROCENTRIC CULTURE; or, THE MAN-MADE WORLD
MEN AND ART.
Among the many counts in which women have been proven inferior to men in
human development is the oft-heard charge that there are no great women
artists. Where one or two are proudly exhibited in evidence, they are
either pooh-poohed as not very great, or held to be the trifling
exceptions which do but prove the rule.
Defenders of women generally make the mistake of over-estimating their
performances, instead of accepting, and explaining, the visible facts.
What are the facts as to the relation of men and women to art? And
what, in especial, has been the effect upon art of a solely masculine
When we look for the beginnings of art, we find ourselves in a period of
crude decoration of the person and of personal belongings. Tattooing,
for instance, is an early form of decorative art, still in practice
among certain classes, even in advanced people. Most boys, if they are
in contact with this early art, admire it, and wish to adorn themselves
therewith; some do so--to later mortification. Early personal
decoration consisted largely in direct mutilation of the body, and the
hanging upon it, or fastening to it, of decorative objects. This we see
among savages still, in its gross and primitive forms monopolized by
men, then shared by women, and, in our time, left almost wholly to them.
In personal decoration today, women are still near the savage. The
"artists" developed in this field of art are the tonsorial, the
sartorial, and all those specialized adorners of the body commonly known
as "beauty doctors."
Here, as in other cases, the greatest artists are men. The greatest
milliners, the greatest dressmakers and tailors, the greatest
hairdressers, and the masters and designers in all our decorative
toilettes and accessories, are men. Women, in this as in so many other
lines, consume rather than produce. They carry the major part of
personal decoration today; but the decorator is the man. In the
decoration of objects, woman, as the originator of primitive industry,
originated also the primitive arts; and in the pottery, basketry,
leatherwork, needlework, weaving, with all beadwork, dyeing and
embroideries of ancient peoples we see the work of the woman decorator.
Much of this is strong and beautiful, but its time is long past. The
art which is part of industry, natural, simple, spontaneous, making
beauty in every object of use, adding pleasure to labor and to life, is
not Art with a large A, the Art which requires Artists, among whom are
so few women of note.
Art as a profession, and the Artist as a professional, came later; and
by that time women had left the freedom and power of the matriarchate
and become slaves in varying degree. The women who were idle pets in
harems, or the women who worked hard as servants, were alike cut off
from the joy of making things. Where constructive work remained to
them, art remained, in its early decorative form. Men, in the
proprietary family, restricting the natural industry of women to
personal service, cut off their art with their industry, and by so much
impoverished the world.
There is no more conspicuously pathetic proof of the aborted development
of women than this commonplace--their lack of a civilized art sense.
Not only in the childish and savage display upon their bodies, but in
the pitiful products they hang upon the walls of the home, is seen the
arrest in normal growth.
After ages of culture, in which men have developed Architecture,
Sculpture, Painting, Music and the Drama, we find women in their
primitive environment making flowers of wax, and hair, and worsted;
doing mottoes of perforated cardboard, making crazy quilts and mats and
"tidies"--as if they lived in a long past age, or belonged to a lower
This, as part of the general injury to women dating from the beginning
of our androcentric culture, reacts heavily upon the world at large.
Men, specializing, giving their lives to the continuous pursuit of one
line of service, have lifted our standard in aesthetic culture, as they
have in other matters; but by refusing the same growth to women, they
have not only weakened and reduced the output, but ruined the market as
it were, hopelessly and permanently kept down the level of taste.
Among the many sides of this great question, some so terrible, some so
pathetic, some so utterly absurd, this particular phase of life is
especially easy to study and understand, and has its own elements of
amusement. Men, holding women at the level of domestic service, going
on themselves to lonely heights of achievement, have found their efforts
hampered and their attainments rendered barren and unsatisfactory by the
amazing indifference of the world at large. As the world at large
consists half of women, and wholly of their children, it would seem
patent to the meanest understanding that the women must be allowed to
rise in order to lift the world. But such has not been the
We have spoken so far in this chapter of the effect of men on art
through their interference with the art of women. There are other sides
to the question. Let us consider once more the essential
characteristics of maleness, and see how they have affected art, keeping
always in mind the triune distinction between masculine, feminine and
human. Perhaps we shall best see this difference by considering what
the development of art might have been on purely human terms.
The human creature, as such, naturally delights in construction, and
adds decoration to construction as naturally. The cook, making little
regular patterns around the edge of the pie, does so from a purely human
instinct, the innate eye-pleasure in regularity, symmetry, repetition,
and alternation. Had this natural social instinct grown unchecked in
us, it would have manifested itself in a certain proportion of
specialists--artists of all sorts--and an accompanying development of
appreciation on the part of the rest of us. Such is the case in
primitive art; the maker of beauty is upheld and rewarded by a popular
appreciation of her work--or his.
Had this condition remained, we should find a general level of artistic
expression and appreciation far higher than we see now. Take the one
field of textile art, for instance: that wide and fluent medium of
expression, the making of varied fabrics, the fashioning of garments and
the decoration of them--all this is human work and human pleasure. It
should have led us to a condition where every human being was a pleasure
to the eye, appropriately and beautifully clothed.
Our real condition in this field is too patent to need emphasis; the
stiff, black ugliness of our men's attire; the irritating variegated
folly of our women's; the way in which we spoil the beauty and shame the
dignity of childhood by modes of dress.
In normal human growth, our houses would be a pleasure to the eye; our
furniture and utensils, all our social products, would blossom into
beauty as naturally as they still do in those low stages of social
evolution where our major errors have not yet borne full fruit.
Applied art in all its forms is a human function, common to every one to
some degree, either in production or appreciation, or both. "Pure art,"
as an ideal, is also human; and the single-hearted devotion of the true
artist to this ideal is one of the highest forms of the social
sacrifice. Of all the thousand ways by which humanity is specialized
for inter-service, none is more exquisite than this; the evolution of
the social Eye, or Ear, or Voice, the development of those whose work is
wholly for others, and to whom the appreciation of others is as the
bread of life. This we should have in a properly developed community;
the pleasure of applied art in the making and using of everything we
have; and then the high joy of the Great Artist, and the noble work
thereof, spread far and wide.
What do we find?
Applied art at a very low level; small joy either for the maker or the
user. Pure art, a fine-spun specialty, a process carried on by an elect
few who openly despise the unappreciative many. Art has become an
occult profession requiring a long special education even to enjoy, and
evolving a jargon of criticism which becomes more esoteric yearly.
Let us now see what part in this undesirable outcome is due to our
As soon as the male of our species assumed the exclusive right to
perform all social functions, he necessarily brought to that performance
the advantages--and disadvantages--of maleness, of those dominant
characteristics, desire, combat, self-expression.
Desire has overweighted art in many visible forms; it is prominent in
painting and music, almost monopolizes fiction, and has pitifully
Combat is not so easily expressed in art, where even competition is on a
high plane; but the last element is the main evil, self-expression.
This impulse is inherently and ineradicably masculine. It rests on that
most basic of distinctions between the sexes, the centripetal and
centrifugal forces of the universe. In the very nature of the
sperm-cell and the germ-cell we find this difference: the one attracts,
gathers, draws in; the other repels, scatters, pushes out. That
projective impulse is seen in the male nature everywhere; the constant
urge toward expression, to all boasting and display. This spirit, like
all things masculine, is perfectly right and admirable in its place.
It is the duty of the male, as a male, to vary; bursting forth in a
thousand changing modifications--the female, selecting, may so
incorporate beneficial changes in the race. It is his duty to thus
express himself--an essentially masculine duty; but masculinity is one
thing, and art is another. Neither the masculine nor the feminine has
any place in art--Art is Human.
It is not in any faintest degree allied to the personal processes of
reproduction; but is a social process, a most distinctive social
process, quite above the plane of sex. The true artist transcends his
sex, or her sex. If this is not the case, the art suffers.
Dancing is an early, and a beautiful art; direct expression of emotion
through the body; beginning in subhuman type, among male birds, as the
bower-bird of New Guinea, and the dancing crane, who swing and caper
before their mates. Among early peoples we find it a common form of
social expression in tribal dances of all sorts, religious, military,
and other. Later it becomes a more explicit form of celebration, as
among the Greeks; in whose exquisite personal culture dancing and music
held high place.
But under the progressive effects of purely masculine dominance we find
the broader human elements of dancing left out, and the sex-element more
and more emphasized. As practiced by men alone dancing has become a
mere display of physical agility, a form of exhibition common to all
males. As practiced by men and women together we have our social
dances, so lacking in all the varied beauty of posture and expression,
so steadily becoming a pleasant form of dalliance.
As practiced by women alone we have one of the clearest proofs of the
degrading effect of masculine dominance:--the dancing girl. In the
frank sensualism of the Orient, this personage is admired and enjoyed on
her merits. We, more sophisticated in this matter, joke shamefacedly
about "the bald-headed row," and occasionally burst forth in shrill
scandal over some dinner party where ladies clad in a veil and a
bracelet dance on the table. Nowhere else in the whole range of life on
earth, is this degradation found--the female capering and prancing
before the male. It is absolutely and essentially his function, not
hers. That we, as a race, present this pitiful spectacle, a natural art
wrested to unnatural ends, a noble art degraded to ignoble ends, has one
Architecture, in its own nature, is least affected by that same cause.
The human needs secured by it, are so human, so unescapably human, that
we find less trace of excessive masculinity than in other arts. It
meets our social demands, it expresses in lasting form our social
feeling, up to the highest; and it has been injured not so much by an
excess of masculinity as by a lack of femininity.
The most universal architectural expression is in the home; the home is
essentially a place for the woman and the child; yet the needs of woman
and child are not expressed in our domestic architecture. The home is
built on lines of ancient precedent, mainly as an industrial form; the
kitchen is its working centre rather than the nursery.
Each man wishes his home to preserve and seclude his woman, his little
harem of one; and in it she is to labor for his comfort or to manifest
his ability to maintain her in idleness. The house is the physical
expression of the limitations of women; and as such it fills the world
with a small drab ugliness. A dwelling house is rarely a beautiful
object. In order to be such, it should truly express simple and natural
relations; or grow in larger beauty as our lives develop.
The deadlock for architectural progress, the low level of our general
taste, the everlasting predominance of the commonplace in buildings, is
the natural result of the proprietary family and its expression in this
In sculpture we have a noble art forcing itself into some service
through many limitations. Its check, as far as it comes under this line
of study, has been indicated in our last chapter; the degradation of the
human body, the vicious standards of sex-consciousness enforced under
the name of modesty, the covered ugliness, which we do not recognize,
all this is a deadly injury to free high work in sculpture.
With a nobly equal womanhood, stalwart and athletic; with the high
standards of beauty and of decorum which we can never have without free
womanhood; we should show a different product in this great art.
An interesting note in passing is this: when we seek to express socially
our noblest, ideas, Truth; Justice; Liberty; we use the woman's body as
the highest human type. But in doing this, the artist, true to humanity
and not biassed by sex, gives us a strong, grand figure, beautiful
indeed, but never _decorated_. Fancy Liberty in ruffles and frills,
with rings in her ears--or nose.
Music is injured by a one-sided handling, partly in the excess of the
one dominant masculine passion, partly by the general presence of
egoism; that tendency to self-expression instead of social expression,
which so disfigures our art; and this is true also of poetry.
Miles and miles of poetry consist of the ceaseless outcry of the male
for the female, which is by no means so overwhelming as a feature of
human life as he imagines it; and other miles express his other
feelings, with that ingenuous lack of reticence which is at its base
essentially masculine. Having a pain, the poet must needs pour it
forth, that his woe be shared and sympathized with.
As more and more women writers flock into the field there is room for
fine historic study of the difference in sex feeling, and the gradual
emergence of the human note.
Literature, and in especial the art of fiction, is so large a field for
this study that it will have a chapter to itself; this one but touching
on these various forms; and indicating lines of observation.
That best known form of art which to my mind needs no qualifying
description--painting--is also a wide field; and cannot be done full
justice to within these limits. The effect upon it of too much
masculinity is not so much in choice of subject as in method and spirit.
The artist sees beauty of form and color where the ordinary observer
does not; and paints the old and ugly with as much enthusiasm as the
young and beautiful--sometimes. If there is in some an over-emphasis of
feminine attractions it is counterbalanced in others by a far broader
line of work.
But the main evils of a too masculine art lie in the emphasis laid on
self-expression. The artist, passionately conscious of how he feels,
strives to make other people aware of these sensations. This is now so
generally accepted by critics, so seriously advanced by painters, that
what is called "the art world" accepts it as established.
If a man paints the sea, it is not to make you see and feel as a sight
of that same ocean would, but to make you see and feel how he,
personally, was affected by it; a matter surely of the narrowest
importance. The ultra-masculine artist, extremely sensitive,
necessarily, and full of the natural urge to expression of the sex, uses
the medium of art as ingenuously as the partridge-cock uses his wings in
drumming on the log; or the bull moose stamps and bellows; not narrowly
as a mate call, but as a form of expression of his personal sensations.
The higher the artist the more human he is, the broader his vision, the
more he sees for humanity, and expresses for humanity, and the less
personal, the less ultra-masculine, is his expression.
COMMENT AND REVIEW
The literary output of the ancient Hebrews must have been great, since
we are told by their critical philosopher, "Of the making of many books
there is no end."
There must have been some limit, however, because their books were hand
made, and not everyone could do it. Since the printing press relieved
this mechanical restriction, and educational facilities made reading and
writing come, if not by nature, at least with general compulsion, the
making of books has increased to the present output--which would have
made the ancient philosopher blush for his premature complaint.
In this, as in all social functions, we have the normal and the abnormal
growth before us; but so far we have not learned to divide them. There
is no harm at all in having anybody and everybody write books if they
choose, any more than in having anybody and everybody talk if they
choose. Literature is only preserved speech.
Freedom of speech is dear to our hearts; it is an easy privilege, and
costs little--to the speaker. People are free to talk, privately and
publicly, and free to write, privately and publicly.
The harm comes, in this as in other processes, by the door of economic
interest. It is not the desire to write which crowds our market so
disadvantageously; it is the desire to sell.
Though a fair capacity in the art of literature were even more general
than to-day, if our social conditions were normal only a certain
proportion of us would naturally prefer that form of expression. Our
literary output is abnormally increased by two influences; the
hereditary and inculcated idea of superiority in this profession, and
the emoluments thereof. These last are greatly over-estimated, as, in
truth, is the first also.
There is nothing essentially more worthy in the art of saying things
than in the art of doing things. The basic merit in literature, as in
speech, lies in the thing said. This the makers of many books have
utterly forgotten. "She's a beautiful talker!" we might say of someone.
"It's perfectly lovely! Such language! Such expression! It's a joy
to hear her!"
Then an unenthusiastic person might rudely inquire, "Yes--but what does
Talking is not fancy-work. It is not an exhibition of skill in the use
of the vocal chords, in knowledge of grammar and rhetoric. Speech is
developed in our race as a medium of transmission of thought and
feelings. The greater or less ease and proficiency with which we
elaborate the function should always be held subordinate to the real
use. Literature is to be similarly judged by its initial purpose, the
preservation and transmission of ideas and feelings. Even the
picture-work of fiction must carry a certain content of ideas, else it
cannot be read; it does not, as the children say, "make sense."
Now take up your current magazine--the largest medium of literary
expression to-day--and consider it from this point of view.
The modern magazine is a distinctly new product. When the slow, thick
stream of book-making first began to spread and filter out through the
new channels of periodic publication, a magazine was a serious literary
production. The word "magazine" implies an armory, a storehouse, a
collection of valuable pieces of literature. Now we need a new word for
the thing. It has become a more and more fluent and varied mouthpiece
of popular expression. It is a halfway-house between the newspaper and
the book. The older, higher-priced, more impressive of them, keep up,
or try to keep up, the standards of the past; but the world of to-day is
by no means so much interested in "beautiful letters" as in the fresh
current of knowledge and feeling belonging to our times.
Articles about flying machines may or may not be "literature" but they
are small doses of information highly desirable to persons who have not
time enough, nor money enough, to read books.
If you have time, you can go to the libraries. If you have money, you
can order from your dealer.
If you have only ten cents--no, fifteen, it takes in these days of
prosperity--you can with that purchase a deal of valuable and
interesting matter, coming on fresh every month--or week.
Sweeping aside all the "instructive" articles as hopelessly without the
lofty pale of literature, we have left an overwhelming mass of fiction.
This, too, is ruthlessly condemned by the austere upholder of high
standards. This, too, is not literature.
What is literature?
Literature, in the esoteric sense of lofty criticism, is a form of
writing which, like the higher mathematics, must be free from any taint
of utility. Pure literature must perforce be a form of expression, but
must not condescend to express anything.
To write with the narrow and vulgar purpose of saying something, is to
be cut off hopelessly from the elect few who produce literature. This
attitude of sublime superiority as an art is responsible for our general
scorn of what we call,
"The Novel With a Purpose."
Have any of us fairly faced the alternative? Are we content to accept
delightedly the "Novel Without a Purpose"?
Do you remember the Peterkin Papers? How Solomon John, the second son,
thought he would like to write a book? How Agammemnon, the oldest son,
and Elizabeth Eliza, the sister, and the Little Boys, in their beloved
rubber boots, as also the parents, were all mightily impressed with the
ambition of Solomon John? How a table was secured, and placed in the
proper light? How a chair was brought, paper was procured, and pens and
ink? How finally all was ready, and the entire family stood about in
rapt admiration to see Solomon John begin?
He drew the paper before him; he selected a pen; he dipped it in the ink
and poised it before him.
Then he looked from one to another, and an expression of pained surprise
spread over his features.
"Why," said Solomon John, "I have nothing to say!"
(I quote from memory, not having the classics at hand.)
There was great disappointment in the Peterkin family, and the project
was given up. But why so? Solomon John need not have been so easily
discouraged. He was in the exact position to produce literature--pure,
high, legitimate literature--the Novel Without a Purpose.
In the effort to preserve the purity of the Pierian Springs, those
guardians of this noble art, who arbitrate in the "standard magazines,"
condemn and exclude what they define as "controversial literature."
Suppose someone comes along with a story advocating euthanasia, showing
with all the force of the art of fiction the slow, hideous suffering of
some helpless cancer patient or the like, the blessed release that might
be humanly given; showing it so as to make an indelible impression--this
story is refused as "controversial," as being written with a purpose.
Yet the same magazine will print a story no better written, showing the
magnificent heroism of the man who slowly dies in year-long torment,
helpless himself and steady drain on everyone about him, virtuously
refusing to shorten his torments--and theirs.
What is a controversy? A discussion, surely. It has two sides.
Why isn't a story upholding one side of a controversy as controversial
as a story upholding the other side?
Is it only a coincidence that magazines of large circulation and
established reputation so consistently maintain that side of the
controversy already popularly held as right?
Time passes. Minds develop. New knowledge comes. People's ideas and
feelings change--some people's. These new ideas and feelings seek
expression ion the natural forms--speech and literature, as is
legitimate and right.
But the canons of taste and judgement say No.
The ideas and feelings of the peoples of past times found expression in
this way, and are preserved in literature. But our ideas and feelings,
so seeking expression, do not make literature.
It is not the first time that the canons were wrong. Straight down the
road of historic progress, from the dim old days we can hardly see, into
the increasing glare of the calcium-lighted present, there have always
stood the Priesthood of the Past, making human progress into an obstacle
QUERY: "I am a woman of about forty; my children are pretty well grown
up; my home does not take all my time. I could do some work in the
world, but I do not know what to do. Can you advise me?"
QUERY: "I appreciate the need of women's working, and am free to do so,
but cannot make up my mind what work to undertake. It is very easy for
you people with 'a mission' and talents, but what is an ordinary woman
ANSWER: These two questions belong together, and may be answered
together. Neither of the questioners seem to be driven by necessity,
which simplifies matters a good deal.
Work has to be done for two real reasons. One is the service of
humanity, of society, which cannot exist without our functional
activity. Work is social service.
The other is personal development. One cannot be fully human without
this functional social activity.
In choosing work, there are two governing factors always, and generally
the third one of pressing necessity. Of the two, one is personal
fitness--the instinctive choice of those who are highly specialized in
some one line. This makes decision easy, but does not always make it
easy to get the work. You may be divinely ordained to fiddle--but if no
one wants to hear you, you are badly off. The other is far more
general; it is the social demand--the call of the work that _needs
If you are able to work, free to work, and not hampered by a rigid
personal bent, just look about and see what other people need. Study
your country, town, village, your environment, near or distant; and take
hold of some social need, whether it is a better school board or the
preservation of our forests. So long as the earth or the people on it
need service, there is work for all of us.
A WALK WALK WALK
I once went out for a walk, walk, walk,
For a walk beside the sea;
And all I carried for to eat, eat, eat,
Was a jar of ginger snaps so sweet,
And a jug of ginger tea.
For I am fond of cinnamon pie,
And peppermint pudding, too;
And I dearly love to bake, bake, bake,
A mighty mass of mustard cake,
And nutmeg beer to brew.
And all I carried for drink, drink, drink,
That long and weary way,
Was a dozen little glasses
Of boiled molasses
On a Cochin China tray.
For I am fond of the sugar of the grape,
And the sugar of the maple tree;
But I always eat
The sugar of the beet
When I'm in company.
And all I carried for to read, read, read,
For a half an hour or so,
Was Milman's Rome, and Grote on Greece,
And the works of Dumas, pere et fils,
And the poems of Longfellow.
For I am fond of the Hunting of the Snark,
And the Romaunt of the Rose;
And I never go to bed
Without Webster at my head
And Worcester at my toes.
ODE TO A FOOL
"Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his
folly."--Prov. 17th, 12th.
Singular insect! Here I watch thee spin
Upon my pin;
And know that thou hast not the least idea
I have thee here.
Strange is thy nature! For thou mayst be slain
Once and again;
Dismembered, tortured, torn with tortures hot--
Yet know it not!
As well pour hate and scorn upon the dead
As on thy head.
While I discuss thee here I plainly see
Thee sneer at me.
Marvellous creature! What mysterious power
In idle hour
Arranged the mighty elements whence came
Thy iron frame!
In every item of thy outward plan
So like a man!
But men are mortal, dying every day,
And thou dost stay.
The nations rise and die with passing rule,
But thou, O Fool!
Livedst when drunken Noah asleeping lay,
Invulnerable Fool! Thy mind
Is deaf and blind;
Impervious to sense of taste and smell
And touch as well.
Thought from without may vainly seek to press
Man's hard-won knowledge which the ages pile
But makes thee smile;
Thy vast sagacity and blatant din
Come from within;
Thy voice doth fill the world from year to year,
Helpless we hear.
Wisdom and wit 'gainst thee have no avail;
O Fool--All Hail!
A MONTHLY MAGAZINE
CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN
AUTHOR, OWNER & PUBLISHER
1.00 A YEAR
.10 A COPY
Volume 1. No. 5
Copyright for 1910
C. P. Gilman
How many a useless stone we find
Swallowed in that capacious, blind,
Faith-swollen gullet, our ancestral mind!
It runs--it runs--the hourglass turning;
Dark sands glooming, bright sands burning;
I turn--and turn--with heavy or hopeful hands;
So must I turn as long as the Voice commands;
But I lose all count of the hours for watching the sliding sands.
Or fast--or slow--it ceases turning;
Ceases the flow, or bright or burning--
"What have you done with the hours?" the Voice demands.
What can I say of eager or careless hands?--
I had forgotten the hours in watching the sliding sands.
A MIDDLE-SIZED ARTIST
When Rosamond's brown eyes seemed almost too big for her brilliant
little face, and her brown curls danced on her shoulders, she had a
passionate enthusiasm for picture books. She loved "the reading," but
when the picture made what her young mind was trying to grasp suddenly
real before her, the stimulus reaching the brain from two directions at
once, she used to laugh with delight and hug the book.
The vague new words describing things she never saw suggested "castle,"
a thing of gloom and beauty; and then upon the page came The Castle
itself, looming dim and huge before her, with drooping heavy banners
against the sunset calm.
How she had regretted it, scarce knowing why, when the pictures were
less real than the description; when the princess, whose beauty made her
the Rose of the World (her name was Rosamond, too!), appeared in visible
form no prettier, no, not as pretty, as The Fair One with The Golden
Locks in the other book! And what an outcry she made to her indifferent
family when first confronted by the unbelievable blasphemy of an
illustration that differed from the text!
"But, Mother--see!" she cried. "It says, 'Her beauty was crowned by
rich braids of golden hair, wound thrice around her shapely head,' and
this girl has black hair--in curls! Did the man forget what he just
Her mother didn't seem to care at all. "They often get them wrong," she
said. "Perhaps it was an old plate. Run away, dear, Mama is very
But Rosamond cared.
She asked her father more particularly about this mysterious "old
plate," and he, being a publisher, was able to give her much information
thereanent. She learned that these wonderful reinforcements of her
adored stories did not emanate direct from the brain of the beneficent
author, but were a supplementary product by some draughtsman, who cared
far less for what was in the author's mind than for what was in his own;
who was sometimes lazy, sometimes arrogant, sometimes incompetent;
sometimes all three. That to find a real artist, who could make
pictures and was willing to make them like the picture the author saw,
was very unusual.
"You see, little girl," said Papa, "the big artists are too big to do
it--they'd rather make their own pictures; and the little artists are
too little--they can't make real ones of their own ideas, nor yet of
"Aren't there any middle-sized artists?" asked the child.
"Sometimes," said her father; and then he showed her some of the perfect
illustrations which leave nothing to be desired, as the familiar ones by
Teniel and Henry Holiday, which make Alice's Adventures and the Hunting
of the Snark so doubly dear, Dore and Retsch and Tony Johannot and
"When I grow up," said Rosamond decidedly, "I'm going to be a
Fortunately for her aspirations the line of study required was in no way
different at first from that of general education. Her parents
explained that a good illustrator ought to know pretty much everything.
So she obediently went through school and college, and when the time
came for real work at her drawing there was no objection to that.
"It is pretty work," said her mother, "a beautiful accomplishment. It
will always be a resource for her."
"A girl is better off to have an interest," said her father, "and not
marry the first fool that asks her. When she does fall in love this
won't stand in the way; it never does; with a woman. Besides--she may
need it sometime."
So her father helped and her mother did not hinder, and when the brown
eyes were less disproportionate and the brown curls wreathed high upon
her small fine head, she found herself at twenty-one more determined to
be a middle-sized artist than she was at ten.
Then love came; in the person of one of her father's readers; a
strenuous new-fledged college graduate; big, handsome, domineering,
opinionative; who was accepting a salary of four dollars a week for the
privilege of working in a publishing house, because he loved books and
meant to write them some day.
They saw a good deal of each other, and were pleasantly congenial. She
sympathized with his criticisms of modem fiction; he sympathized with
her criticisms of modern illustration; and her young imagination began
to stir with sweet memories of poetry and romance; and sweet hopes of
There are cases where the longest way round is the shortest way home;
but Mr. Allen G. Goddard chose differently. He had read much about
women and about love, beginning with a full foundation from the
ancients; but lacked an understanding of the modern woman, such as he
had to deal with.
Therefore, finding her evidently favorable, his theories and
inclinations suiting, he made hot love to her, breathing, "My Wife!"
into her ear before she had scarce dared to think "my darling!" and
suddenly wrapping her in his arms with hot kisses, while she was still
musing on "The Hugenot Lovers" and the kisses she dared dream of came in
slow gradation as in the Sonnets From the Portuguese.
He was in desperate earnest. "O you are so beautiful!" he cried. "So
unbelievably beautiful! Come to me, my Sweet!" for she had sprung away
and stood panting and looking at him, half reproachful, half angry.
"You love me, Dearest! You cannot deny it!" he cried. "And I love
you--Ah! You shall know!"
He was single-hearted, sincere; stirred by a very genuine overwhelming
emotion. She on the contrary was moved by many emotions at once;--a
pleasure she was half ashamed of; a disappointment she could not clearly
define; as if some one had told her the whole plot of a promising new
novel; a sense of fear of the new hopes she had been holding, and of
startled loyalty to her long-held purposes.
"Stop!" she said--for he evidently mistook her agitation, and thought
her silence was consent. "I suppose I do--love you--a little; but
you've no right to kiss me like that!"
His eyes shone. "You Darling! _My_ Darling!" he said. "You will give
me the right, won't you? Now, Dearest--see! I am waiting!" And he held
out his arms to her.
But Rosamond was more and more displeased. "You will have to wait. I'm
sorry; but I'm not ready to be engaged, yet! You know my plans. Why
I'm going to Paris this year! I'm going to work! It will be ever so
long before I'm ready to--to settle down."
"As to that," he said more calmly, "I cannot of course offer immediate
marriage, but we can wait for that--together! You surely will not leave
me--if you love me!"
"I think I love you," she said conscientiously, "at least I did think
so. You've upset it all, somehow--you hurry me so!--no--I can't bind
"Do you tell me to wait for you?" he asked; his deep voice still strong
to touch her heart. "How long, Dearest?"
"I'm not asking you to wait for me--I don't want to promise
anything--nor to have you. But when I have made a place--am really
doing something--perhaps then--"
He laughed harshly. "Do not deceive yourself, child, nor me! If you
loved me there would be none of this poor wish for freedom--for a
career. You don't love me--that's all!"
He waited for her to deny this. She said nothing. He did not know how
hard it was for her to keep from crying--and from running to his arms.
"Very well," said he. "Goodby!"--And he was gone.
All that happened three years ago.
Allen Goddard took it very hard; and added to his earlier ideas about
women another, that "the new woman" was a selfish heartless creature,
indifferent to her own true nature.
He had to stay where he was and work, owing to the pressure of
circumstances, which made it harder; so he became something of a
mysogynyst; which is not a bad thing when a young man has to live on
very little and build a place for himself.
In spite of this cynicism he could not remove from his mind those softly
brilliant dark eyes; the earnest thoughtful lines of the pure young
face; and the changing lights and shadows in that silky hair. Also, in
the course of his work, he was continually reminded of her; for her
characteristic drawings appeared more and frequently in the magazines,
and grew better, stronger, more convincing from year to year.
Stories of adventure she illustrated admirably; children's stories to
perfection; fairy stories--she was the delight of thousands of children,
who never once thought that the tiny quaint rose in a circle that was to
be found in all those charming pictures meant a name. But he noticed
that she never illustrated love stories; and smiled bitterly, to
There were moments when she was inclined to forfeit her passage money
and throw herself unreservedly into those strong arms which had held her
so tightly for a little while. But a bud picked open does not bloom
naturally; and her tumultuous feelings were thoroughly dissipated by a
long strong attack of _mal de mer._ She derived two advantages from her
experience: one a period of safe indifference to all advances from eager
fellow students and more cautious older admirers; the other a facility
she had not before aspired to in the making of pictures of love and
She made pictures of him from memory--so good, so moving, that she put
them religiously away in a portfolio by themselves; and only took them
out--sometimes. She illustrated, solely for her own enjoyment some of
her girlhood's best loved poems and stories. "The Rhyme of the Duchess
May," "The Letter L," "In a Balcony," "In a Gondola." And hid them from
herself even--they rather frightened her.
After three years of work abroad she came home with an established
reputation, plenty of orders, and an interest that would not be stifled
in the present state of mind of Mr. Allen Goddard.
She found him still at work, promoted to fifteen dollars a week by this
time, and adding to his income by writing political and statistical
articles for the magazines. He talked, when they met, of this work,
with little enthusiasm, and asked her politely about hers.
"Anybody can see mine!" she told him lightly. "And judge it easily."
"Mine too," he answered. "It to-day is--and to-morrow is cast into the
waste-basket. He who runs may read--if he runs fast enough."
He told himself he was glad he was not bound to this hard, bright
creature, so unnaturally self-sufficient, and successful.
She told herself that he had never cared for her, really, that was
Then an English publisher who liked her work sent her a new novel by a
new writer, "A. Gage." "I know this is out of your usual line," he
said, "but I want a woman to do it, and I want you to be the woman, if
possible. Read it and see what you think. Any terms you like."
The novel was called "Two and One;" and she began it with languid
interest, because she liked that publisher and wished to give full
reasons for refusing. It opened with two young people who were much in
love with one another; the girl a talented young sculptor with a vivid
desire for fame; and another girl, a cousin of the man, ordinary enough,
but pretty and sweet, and with no desires save those of romance and
domesticity. The first couple broke off a happy engagement because she
insisted on studying in Paris, and her lover, who could neither go with
her, nor immediately marry her, naturally objected.
Rosamond sat up in bed; pulled a shawl round her, swung the electric
light nearer, and went on.
The man was broken-hearted; he suffered tortures of loneliness,
disappointment, doubt, self-depreciation. He waited, held at his work
by a dependent widowed mother; hoping against hope that his lost one
would come back. The girl meanwhile made good in her art work; she was
not a great sculptor but a popular portraitist and maker of little genre
groups. She had other offers, but refused them, being hardened in her
ambitions, and, possibly, still withheld by her early love.
The man after two or three years of empty misery and hard grinding work,
falls desperately ill; the pretty cousin helps the mother nurse him, and
shows her own affection. He offers the broken remnants of his heart,
which she eagerly undertakes to patch up; and they become tolerably
happy, at least she is.
But the young sculptor in Paris! Rosamond hurried through the pages to
the last chapter. There was the haughty and triumphant heroine in her
studio. She had been given a medal--she had plenty of orders--she had
just refused a Count. Everyone had gone, and she sat alone in her fine
studio, self-satisfied and triumphant.
Then she picks up an old American paper which was lying about; reads it
idly as she smokes her cigarette--and then both paper and cigarette drop
to the floor, and she sits staring.
Then she starts up--her arms out--vainly. "Wait! O Wait!" she
cries--"I was coining back,"--and drops into her chair again. The fire
is out. She is alone.
Rosamond shut the book and leaned back upon her pillow. Her eyes were
shut tight; but a little gleaming line showed on either cheek under the
near light. She put the light out and lay quite still.
Allen G. Goddard, in his capacity as "reader" was looking over some
popular English novels which his firm wished to arrange about publishing
in America. He left "Two and One" to the last. It was the second
edition, the illustrated one which he had not seen yet; the first he had
read before. He regarded it from time to time with a peculiar
"Well," he said to himself, "I suppose I can stand it if the others do."
And he opened the book.
The drawing was strong work certainly, in a style he did not know. They
were striking pictures, vivid, real, carrying out in last detail the
descriptions given, and the very spirit of the book, showing it more
perfectly than the words. There was the tender happiness of the lovers,
the courage, the firmness, the fixed purpose in the young sculptor
insisting on her freedom, and the gay pride of the successful artist in
There was beauty and charm in this character, yet the face was always
turned away, and there was a haunting suggestion of familiarity in the
figure. The other girl was beautiful, and docile in expression;
well-dressed and graceful; yet somehow unattractive, even at her best,
as nurse; and the man was extremely well drawn, both in his happy ardor
as a lover, and his grinding misery when rejected. He was very
good-looking; and here too was this strong sense of resemblance.
"Why he looks like _me_!" suddenly cried the reader--springing to his
feet. "Confound his impudence!" he cried. "How in thunder!" Then he
looked at the picture again, more carefully, a growing suspicion in his
face; and turned hurriedly to the title page,--seeing a name unknown to
This subtle, powerful convincing work; this man who undeniably suggested
him; this girl whose eyes he could not see; he turned from one to
another and hurried to the back of the book.
"The fire was out--she was alone." And there, in the remorseless light
of a big lamp before her fireless hearth, the crumpled newspaper beside
her, and all hope gone from a limp, crouching little figure, sat--why,
he would know her among a thousand--even if her face was buried in her
hands, and sunk on the arm of the chair--it was Rosamond!
She was in her little downtown room and hard at work when he entered;
but she had time to conceal a new book quickly.
He came straight to her; he had a book in his hand, open--he held it
"Did you do this?" he demanded. "Tell me--tell me!" His voice was very
She lifted her eyes slowly to his; large, soft, full of dancing lights,
and the rich color swept to the gold-lighted borders of her hair.
"Did you?" she asked.
He was taken aback. "I!" said he. "Why it's by--" he showed her the
title-page. "By A. Gage," he read.
"Yes," said she, "Go on," and he went on, 'Illustrated by A. N. Other.'"
"It's a splendid novel," she said seriously. "Real work--great work. I
always knew you'd do it, Allen. I'm so proud of you!" And she held out
her hand in the sincere intelligent appreciation of a fellow craftsman.
He took it, still bewildered.
"Thank you," he said. "I value your opinion--honestly I do! And--with
a sudden sweep of recognition. "And yours is great work! Superb! Why
you've put more into that story than I knew was there! You make the
thing live and breathe! You've put a shadow of remorse in that lonely
ruffian there that I was too proud to admit! And you've shown
the--unconvincingness of that Other Girl; marvellously. But see
here--no more fooling!"
He took her face between his hands, hands that quivered strongly, and
forced her to look at him. "Tell me about that last picture! Is
Her eyes met his, with the look he longed for. "It is true," she said.
After some time, really it was a long time, but they had not noticed it,
he suddenly burst forth. "But how did you _know_?"
She lifted a flushed and smiling face: and pointed to the title page
"'A. Gage.'--You threw it down."
"And you--" He threw back his head and laughed delightedly. "You threw
down A-N-Other! O you witch! You immeasurably clever darling! How
well our work fits. By Jove! What good times we'll have!"
And they did.
THE MINOR BIRDS
Shall no bird sing except the nightingale?
Must all the lesser voices cease?
Lark, thrush and blackbird hold their peace?
The woods wait dumb
Until he come?
Must we forego the voices of the field?
The hedgebird's twitter and the soft dove's cooing,
All the small songs of nesting, pairing, wooing,
Where each reveals
What joy he feels?
Should we know how to praise the nightingale,
Master of music, ecstacy and pain,
If he alone sang in the springtime rain?
If no one heard
A minor bird?
"Won't you step in?"
You step in.
"She will be down in a moment. Won't you sit down?"
You sit down. You wait. You are in the parlor.
What is this room? What is it for?
It is not to sleep in, the first need of the home. Not to eat in, the
second. Not to shelter young in, the third. Not to cook and wash in,
to sew and mend in, to nurse and tend in; not for any of the trades
which we still practice in the home.
It is a place for social intercourse. If the family is sufficiently
intelligent they use it for this purpose, gathering there in peace and
decorum, for rest and pleasure. Whether the family is of that order or
not, they use the parlor, if they have one, for the entertainment of
visitors. Our ancient Webster gives first: "The apartment in monastery
or nunnery where the inmates are permitted to meet and converse with
each other, or with visitors and friends from without," and second, "A
room in a house which the family usually occupy for society and
conversation; the reception room for visitors." It is, as the
derivation declares, "a talking room."
While you wait in the parlor you study it.
It is the best room. It has the best carpet, the best furniture, the
pictures and decorations considered most worthy. It is adorned as a
shrine for the service of what we feel rather than think to be a noble
purpose--to promote social intercourse.
In the interchange of thought and feeling that form so large and
essential a part of human life, these parlors are the vehicles provided.
Are they all the vehicles provided? Is it in parlors that the sea of
human thought ebbs and flows most freely? That mind meets mind, ideas
are interchanged, and the soul grows by contact with its kind? Is it in
parlors that art is talked? politics? business? affairs of state? new
lights in science? the moving thoughts of the world?
If you could hide in a thousand parlors and listen to the talk therein
what would you hear? When "she" has come down, greeted her friend with
effusion or her caller with ample cordiality, and the talk begins, the
interchange of thought, what does the parlor bring forth?
Alas and alas! It brings forth the kitchen, the nursery, and the
dressmaker's shop. It furnishes shop-talk mostly, gossip of the daily
concerns of the speakers.
Are there no men then in the parlors? Yes, frequently. The man of the
house is there with his family in the evening; other men call with their
wives; young men call on young women to court them; but in all these
cases the men, talking to the women, must needs confine the conversation
to their lines of work and thought. When men talk with men it is not in
parlors. The women may be ignorant, knowing only household affairs; or
they may be "cultivated," more highly educated than the men, talking
glibly of books they have read, lectures they have heard, plays they
have seen; while the men can talk well only of the work they have done.
When men wish to talk with men of world-business of any sort, they do
not seek the parlor. The street, the barroom, the postoffice, some
public place they want where they may meet freely on broader ground.
For the parlor is the women's meeting ground--has been for long their
only meeting ground except the church steps.
Its limits are sharp and clear. Only suitable persons may enter the
parlor; only one's acquaintances and friends. Thus the social
intercourse of women, for long years has been rigidly confined to parlor
limits; they have conversed only with their own class and kind, forever
rediscussing the same topics, the threadbare theme of their common
trade; and the men who come to their parlor, talk politely to them there
within prescribed lines.
It is interesting and pathetic to see the woman, when means allow,
enlarge the size of her parlor, the number of her guests, seeking
continually for that social intercourse for which the soul hungers, and
which the parlor so meagerly provides. As we see the fakir;
"Eating with famished patience grain by grain,
A thousand grains of millet-seed a day,"--
So the woman talks incessantly with as many as she can--neither giving
nor getting what is needed.
When we find an institution so common as the parlor, exerting a constant
influence upon us from childhood up, carrying with it a code of manners,
a system of conduct, a scheme of decoration, a steady prohibitive
pressure upon progressive thought, we shall be wise to study that
institution and in especial its effect upon the mind.
First, we may observe as in the kitchen the dominant note of
In the parlor more than elsewhere are to be found the "traces of a
woman's hand." It is her room, the Lady of the House and other Ladies
of other Houses, having each their own to exhibit, all politely praise
one another's display.
When a knowledge of art, a sense of beauty, grows in the world, and
slowly affects the decorators and furnishers, then does it through the
blandishments of the merchants filter slowly into a thousand parlors.
But as easily when there is neither art nor beauty in such furnishings,
are they foisted upon the purchasing housewife. Such as it is, provided
through the limitations of the housewife's mind and the husband's purse,
this "best room" becomes a canon of taste to the growing child.
"The parlor set" he must needs see held up as beautiful; the "reception
chairs," the carefully shadowed carpet,--these and the "best dress" to
go with them and the "company manners" added, are unescapable aesthetic
Few children like the parlor, few children are wanted or allowed in the
parlor, yet it has a steady influence as a sort of social shrine.
Most rigidly it teaches the child exclusiveness, the narrow limits of
one's "social acquaintances." As rigidly and most evilly it teaches him
falsehood. Scarcely a child but hears the mother's fretful protest
against the visitor, followed by the lightning change to cordial
greeting. The white lie, the smiling fib, the steady concealment of the
undesirable topic, the mutual steering off from all but a set allowance
of themes, the artificial dragging in of these and their insufferable
repetition--all this the silent, large-eyed child who has been allowed
to stay if quiet, hears and remembers. See the little girl's "playing
house." See the visitor arrive, the polite welcome, the inquiries after
health, the babbling discussion of babies and dress and cookery and
servants,--these they have well learned are proper subjects for parlor
The foolish and false ideas of beauty held up to them as "best," they
seek to perpetuate. The arbitrary "best dress" system, develops into a
vast convention, a wearing of apparel not for beauty, and not for use,
not for warmth, protection nor modesty (often quite the opposite of all
these), but as a conventional symbol of respectability.
So interwoven with our inner consciousness are these purely arbitrary
codes of propriety in costume, that we have such extremes as Kipling
shows us in his remote Himalayan forests,--a white man thousands of
miles from his kind, who "dressed for dinner every night to preserve his
self-respect." No doubt a perfectly sincere conviction, and one sunk
deep in the highbred British breast, but even so of a most shallow and
ephemeral nature, based on nothing whatever but a temporary caprice of
Being reared in that state of mind, and half of us confined to it
professionally, we are inevitably affected thereby, and react upon
life--the real moving world-life, under its pitiful limitations.
If one's sense of beauty must be first, last and always personal, and
confined to one's parlor,--for of course we cannot dictate as to other
women's parlors,--then how is it to be expected that we should in any
way notice, feel or see the ugliness of our town or city, schoolhouse or
See the woman who has had "an education," who has even "studied art,"
perhaps, and whose husband can pay for what she wants. Her parlor may
become a drawing-room, or two, or more, but she does not grow to care
that a public school-room is decorated in white plaster trimmed with a
broad strip of blackboard.
The bald, cruel, wearing ugliness of the most of our schools, is worthy
of penal institutions, yet we with cheerful unconcern submit growing
children to such influences without ever giving it a thought.
"My parlor" must be beautiful, but "our school" is no business of mine.
Is there any real reason, by the way, why blackboards must be black? A
deep dull red or somber green would be restful and pleasant to the eye,
and show chalk just as well. As is being now slowly discovered. There
are no blackboards in our parlors. Our children leave home to go to
school, and their mother's thoughts do not. In the small measure of
parlor decoration grows no sense of public art.
Great art must be largely conceived, largely executed. For the temple
and palace and forum rose the columns and statues of the past; for the
church and castle the "frozen music" of mediaeval architecture; for
church and palace again, the blazing outburst of pictorial art in the
great re-birth. Now the struggling artist must cater to the tastes of
parlor-bred patrons; must paint what suits the uses of that carpeted
sanctuary, portraits of young ladies most successful! Or he must do for
public buildings, if by chance he gets the opportunity, what meets the
tastes of our universal parlor-mindedness.
With this parlor-mindedness, we repudiate and condemn in painting,
literature, music, drama and the dance, whatever does not conform to the
decorum of this shrine, whatsoever is not suitable to ladylike
conversation. Be the book bad, it is unsuited to the parlor table. Be
the book good--too good, or be it great, then it is equally unsuited.
Controversy has no place in parlors, hence no controversial literature.
Pleasant if possible, or sweetly sad, and not provocative of
argument--this is the demeanor of the parlor table, and to this the
editor conforms. To the editorial dictum the "reader" must submit; to
the "readers" decisions the writer must submit; to the _menu_ furnished
by the magazines, the public must submit, and so grows up among us a
canon of literary judgment, best described as "parlor-minded." This is
by no means so damaging as kitchen-mindedness, for those who escape the
influence of the parlor are many, and those who escape the influence of
the kitchen are few; but it is quite damaging enough.
One of the main elements of beauty in our lives is the human body. Some
keep swans, some peacocks, and some deer, that they may delight their
eyes with the beauty thereof. We ourselves are more beautiful than any
beast or bird, we are the inspiration of poet, painter, and sculptor;
yet we have deliberately foregone all this constant world of beauty and
substituted for it a fluctuating nightmare.
In what sordid or discordant colors do we move about! What desolate
blurring of outline and action, by our dragging masses of cloth,
stiffened and padded like Chinese armor! What strange figures,
conventionalized as a lotus pattern, instead of the moving glory of the
Why do we do it? Having done it why do we bear it longer? Why not fill
our streets with beauty, gladden our eyes and uplift our souls with the
loveliness that is ours by nature, plus the added loveliness of the
textile art? We have pictures of our beauty, we have statues of our
beauty--why go without the real thing? Suppose our swans could show us
in paint and marble the slow white grace of their plumed sailing, but in
person paddled about in a costume of stovepipes. Suppose deer and
hound,--but wait!--this we have seen, this extreme of human folly forced
upon the helpless beast,--dogs dressed to suit the taste of their
parlor-minded owners! Not men's dogs,--women's dogs.
To cover--at any cost, with anything, that is a major ideal of the
parlor. There is an exception made, when, at any cost of health, beauty
and decency, we uncover--but this too, is to meet one of the parlor
purposes. In it and its larger spread of drawing and assembly rooms, we
provide not only for "social intercourse"--but for that necessary
meeting of men and women that shall lead to marriage.
A right and wholesome purpose, but not a right and wholesome place. Men
and women should meet and meet freely in the places where they live, but
they should not live in parlors. They should meet and know one another
in their working clothes, in the actual character and habit of their
Marriages may be "made in heaven," but they are mainly--shall we say
"retailed"? in parlors. What can the parlor-loved young woman know of
the parlor-bound young man? Parlor manners only are produced, parlor
topics, parlor ideas. He had better court her in the kitchen, if she is
one of the "fifteen sixteenths" of our families who keep no servants, to
know what he is going to live with. She never knows what she is going
to live with; for the nature of man is not truly exhibited either in
kitchen or parlor. A co-educational college does much, a studio or
business office or work-shop does more, to show men and women to each
other as they are. Neither does enough, for the blurring shadow of our
parlor-mindedness still lies between. It has so habituated us to the
soft wavelets and glassy shallows of polite conversation, that we refuse
to face and discuss the realities of life. With gifts of roses and
bonbons, suppers and theatres that cost more than the cows of the Kaffir
lover, and ought to make the girl feel like a Kaffir bride, the man woos
the woman. With elaborate toilettes and all the delicate trickery of
her unnatural craft, the woman woos the man. And the trail of the
parlor is over it all.
Gaily to the gate of marriage they go, and through it--and never have
they asked or answered the questions on which the whole truth of their
union depends. Our standards of decorum forbid,--parlor standards all.
We have woven and embroidered a veil over the facts of life; an
incense-clouded atmosphere blinds us; low music and murmured litanies
dull the mind, but not the senses. We drift and dream. In the girl's
mind floats a cloud of literary ideals. He is like a "Greek god," a
"Galahad," a "Knight of old." He is in some mystic way a Hero, a
Master, a Protector. She pictures herself as fulfilling exquisite
ideals of wifely devotion, "all in all" to him, and he to her.
She does not once prefigure to herself the plain common facts of the
experience that lies before her. She does not known them. In parlors
such things are not discussed,--no naked truths can be admitted there.
We live a marvellous life at home. Visibly we have the care and labor
of housekeeping, the strain and anxiety of childbearing as it is
practised, the elaborate convention of "receiving" and "entertaining."
Under these goes on life. Our bodies are tired, overtaxed, ill-fed,
grossly ill-treated. Our minds are hungry, unsatisfied, or drugged and
calm. We live, we suffer and we die,--and never once do we face the
facts. Birth and death are salient enough, one would think, but birth
and death we particularly cover and hide, concealing from our friends
with conventional phrases, lying about to our children. Over the strong
ever-lasting life-processes, we spin veil on veil; drape and smother
them till they become sufficiently remote and symbolic for the parlor to
In older nations than ours, we can see this web of convention thickened
and hardened till life runs low within. Think what can be the state of
mind in India which allows child-marriage--the mother concurrent! Think
of the slow torture of little girls in foot-bound China, the mother
concurrent! Then turning quickly, think of our own state of mind, which
allows young girls to marry old reprobates,--the mother concurrent!
That mental attitude which maintains ancient conventions, which prefers
symbol to fact, which prescribes limits to our conversation, and draws
them narrowly down to what can be understood by anybody, and can
instruct, interest and inspire nobody, is parlor-mindedness. It does
harm enough both in its low ideals of beauty and art, manners and
morals, to its placid inmates and its complaisant visitors; it does more
harm in its fallacious shallows as a promoter of marriage; it does most
in its failure to promote the one thing it is for--social intercourse.
To meet freely; to talk, discuss, exchange and compare ideas, is a
general human need. Those who do not know they need it, need it most.
Each of us alone, taps the reservoir of world-force, in some degree, and
pours it forth in some expression. Often the intake seems to fail, the
output is unsatisfying. Then we need one another, now this one and now
that one, now several, now a crowd. In combination we receive new
power. The human soul calls for contact and exchange with its kind.
This contact should be fluent and free, spontaneous, natural; that we
may go as we are drawn to those who feed us best.
Men need men and women women; men and women need one another; it is a
general human condition. From such natural meeting arises personal
relief, rest, pleasure, stimulus, and social gain beyond counting, in
the growth of thought. The social battery is continually replenished by
contact and exchange. Some friends draw out the best that is in us,
some, though perhaps near and dear to us, do not.
No matter how "happily married," or how unhappily unmarried, we need
social interchange. To quench this thirst, to meet this need, wide as
the world and deep as life, we provide--the parlor.
Is it any wonder that our talk is mainly personality? That we love
gossip, even when it bites and sours to scandal? Is it any wonder that
women talk so much of their kitchen and nurseries, of their diseases,
and their clothes, yet learn so little about better feeding, better
dressing, better health and better child-culture? Is it any wonder that
to our parlor-mindedness the daily press descends, gives us the pap we
are used to, and then artfully peppers our pap, insinuating some sparkle
of alcohol, some solace of insidious drug, that we may "get the habit"
more firmly? Is it any wonder that we, parlor-bred and newspaper-fed,
continue to cry out fiercely against personal, primitive, parlor sins,
and remain calm and unshocked by world-sins that should rouse us to
horror, shame and action?
In these small shrines, adorned with what, in our doll-house taste, we
fondly imagine to be beautiful, we seek to keep ourselves, "unspotted
from the world," but by no saving grace of a thousand parlors, do we
succeed in keeping the world unspotted from ourselves! We make the
world. We are the world. It might be a place of noble freedom, of
ever-growing beauty, of a fluent, truthful radiant art, of broadening
education, wide peace and culture, universal wealth and progress. And
we miss even seeing this, living sedately, curtained, carpeted, well
content, in our ancestral parlor-mindedness.
The young brain was awake and hungry. It was a vigorous young brain,
well-organized; eager, receiving impressions with keen joy and storing
them rapidly away in due relation.
Such a wonder world!
Sweetness and light were the first impressions--light which made his
eyes laugh; and Sweetness Incarnate--that great soft Presence which was
Food and Warmth and Rest and Comfort and something better still; for all
of which he had no name as yet except "Ma-ma!"
He was growing, growing fast. He was satisfied with food. He was
satisfied with sleep. But his brain was not satisfied. So the brain's
first servant went forth to minister to it; small, soft, uncertain,
searching for all knowledge--the little hand.
Something to hold! Ancestral reflexes awoke as the fingers closed upon
it. Something to pull! The soft arm flexors tightened with a sense of
pleasure. Sensations came flowing to the hungry brain--welcomed
Then suddenly, a new sensation--Pain! He drew back his hand as a
touched anemone draws in its tentacles, scarce softer than those pink
fingers; but he did not know quite where the pain was--much less where
it came from, or what it meant.
"More!" said the hungry brain. "More!" and the little hand went out
It was sharply spatted. "No, No!" said a strange voice--he had never
heard that kind of tone before. "No! No! Naughty! Don't touch!" He
lifted his face unbelievingly. Yes--it was Food and Warmth and Comfort
who was doing this to him.
The small moist mouth quivered grievingly--a cry rose in him.
"Here!" said the Presence, and gave him a rattle.
He had had that before. He knew all that it could do. He dropped it.
Over and over again, day after day, the little servant of the brain ran
forth to minister, and met sharp pain; while the dim new concept
"'Naughty'--something you want to do and mustn't"--was registered
The child grew and his brain grew faster. He learned new words, an
behind the words, in the fresh untouched spaces, the swift brain placed
ideas--according to its lights. He had learned that the Presence
varied. It was not always Sweetness and Rest and Joy--sometimes it was
Discomfort--Hindrance--even Pain. He had learned to look at it with
doubt--when about to do something--to see which way it would react upon
"Isn't that baby cute?" said the Presence. "He knows just as well!"
But his brain grew stronger, and his hand grew stronger, and about him
was a world of objects, rousing all manner of sensations which he fain
"I have to watch that child every minute to keep him out of mischief!"
said the Presence.
She caught him sharply by the arm and drew him back.
"Don't touch that again! If you do I'll whip you!"
He stared at her, large-eyed, revolving the language. Language was so
interesting. "Don't" he knew well, and "touch" and "that" and "again."
"If you do" was harder. He was not at all sure about "if." And
"whip"--that was quite new. He puckered his soft mouth and made a
little whispering sound, trying to say it.
"Yes, Whip!" said the Presence. "Now you be good!" He knew "be good,"
too. It meant not doing anything. He couldn't be good very long--any
more than the Proverbial Indian.
In the course of his growing he soon learned "Whip." It was very
unpleasant. The busy brain, receiving, sorting, arranging,
re-arranging, stored up this fierce experience without delay.
"Whipping--Pain and Insult. It happens when you break anything. It is
The brain was kept very busy re-arranging this Consequence. "It happens
when you spill the milk--when you soil your dress--when you tear it
(dresses must be sacred!)--when you 'meddle'--when you run away--when
you get wet--when you take sugar--when"--(this was a great discovery),
"when Mama is Angry." He was older now, and found that the Presence
varied a good deal. So the brain built up its group of ethical
And then--one memorable day--this neat arrangement of ethics, true,
received a great shock.
There was the sugar--in easy reach--and sugar is All Good to the young
body. Remembered pleasure, strong immediate desire, the eye's guidance,
the hand's impulse--all urged to perform the natural act of eating.
Against it,--what? The blurred remembrance of promiscuous pain, only by
main force to be associated with that coveted, visible pleasure; and the
dawning power of inhibition. To check strong natural desire by no
better force than the memory of oral threat, or even of felt pain, is
not easy always for adults.
He ate the sugar, fearing yet joyous. No one else was present. No one
saw the act, nor learned it later.
He was not whipped.
Then rose the strong young brain to new occasion. It observed, deduced,
even experimented, flushed with the pleasure of normal exercise. It
established, before he was five years old, these conclusions:
"'Naughty' is a thing you're punished for doing--if you're not punished
it isn't naughty.
"Punishment is a thing that happens if you're found out--if you're not
found out you're not punished.
"Ergo--if you're not found out you're not naughty!"
And the child grew up to be a man.
WHAT DIANTHA DID
When the fig growns on the thistle,
And the silk purse on the sow;
When one swallow brings the summer,
And blue moons on her brow--
Then we may look for strength and skill,
Experience, good health, good will,
Art and science well combined,
Honest soul and able mind,
Servants built upon this plan,
One to wait on every man,
Patiently from youth to age,--
For less than a street cleaner's wage!
When the parson's gay on Mondays,
When we meet a month of Sundays,
We may look for them and find them--
But Not Now!
When young Mrs. Weatherstone swept her trailing crepe from the
automobile to her friend's door, it was opened by a quick, soft-footed
maid with a pleasant face, who showed her into a parlor, not only cool
and flower-lit, but having that fresh smell that tells of new-washed
Mrs. Porne came flying down to meet her, with such a look of rest and
comfort as roused instant notice.
"Why, Belle! I haven't seen you look so bright in ever so long. It
must be the new maid!"
"That's it--she's 'Bell' too--'Miss Bell' if you please!"
The visitor looked puzzled. "Is she a--a friend?" she ventured, not
sure of her ground.
"I should say she was! A friend in need! Sit here by the window,
Viva--and I'll tell you all about it--as far as it goes."
She gaily recounted her climax of confusion and weariness, and the
sudden appearance of this ministering angel. "She arrived at about
quarter of ten. I engaged her inside of five minutes. She was into a
gingham gown and at work by ten o'clock!"
"What promptness! And I suppose there was plenty to do!"
Mrs. Porne laughed unblushingly. "There was enough for ten women it
seemed to me! Let's see--it's about five now--seven hours. We have
nine rooms, besides the halls and stairs, and my shop. She hasn't
touched that yet. But the house is clean--_clean_! Smell it!"
She took her guest out into the hall, through the library and
dining-room, upstairs where the pleasant bedrooms stretched open and
"She said that if I didn't mind she'd give it a superficial general
cleaning today and be more thorough later!"
Mrs. Weatherstone looked about her with a rather languid interest. "I'm
very glad for you, Belle, dear--but--what an endless nuisance it all
is--don't you think so?"
"Nuisance! It's slow death! to me at least," Mrs. Porne answered. "But
I don't see why you should mind. I thought Madam Weatherstone ran
that--palace, of yours, and you didn't have any trouble at all."
"Oh yes, she runs it. I couldn't get along with her at all if she
didn't. That's her life. It was my mother's too. Always fussing and
fussing. Their houses on their backs--like snails!"
"Don't see why, with ten (or is it fifteen?) servants."
"Its twenty, I think. But my dear Belle, if you imagine that when you
have twenty servants you have neither work nor care--come and try it
awhile, that's all!"
"Not for a millionaire baby's ransom!" answered Isabel promptly.
"Give me my drawing tools and plans and I'm happy--but this
business"--she swept a white hand wearily about--"it's not my work,
"But you _enjoy_ it, don't you--I mean having nice things?" asked her
"Of course I enjoy it, but so does Edgar. Can't a woman enjoy her home,
just as a man does, without running the shop? I enjoy ocean travel, but
I don't want to be either a captain or a common sailor!"
Mrs. Weatherstone smiled, a little sadly. "You're lucky, you have other
interests," she said. "How about our bungalow? have you got any
Mrs. Porne flushed. "I'm sorry, Viva. You ought to have given it to
someone else. I haven't gone into that workroom for eight solid days.
No help, and the baby, you know. And I was always dog-tired."
"That's all right, dear, there's no very great rush. You can get at it
now, can't you--with this other Belle to the fore?"
"She's not Belle, bless you--she's 'Miss Bell.' It's her last name."
Mrs. Weatherstone smiled her faint smile. "Well--why not? Like a
seamstress, I suppose."
"Exactly. That's what she said. "If this labor was as important as
that of seamstress or governess why not the same courtesy--Oh she's a
most superior _and_ opinionated young person, I can see that."
"I like her looks," admitted Mrs. Weatherstone, "but can't we look over
those plans again; there's something I wanted to suggest." And they
went up to the big room on the third floor.
In her shop and at her work Isabel Porne was a different woman. She was
eager and yet calm; full of ideas and ideals, yet with a practical
knowledge of details that made her houses dear to the souls of women.
She pointed out in the new drawings the practical advantages of kitchen
and pantry; the simple but thorough ventilation, the deep closets, till
her friend fairly laughed at her. "And you say you're not domestic!"
"I'm a domestic architect, if you like," said Isabel; "but not a
domestic servant.--I'll remember what you say about those windows--it's
a good idea," and she made a careful note of Mrs. Weatherstone's
That lady pushed the plans away from her, and went to the many cushioned
lounge in the wide west window, where she sat so long silent that Isabel
followed at last and took her hand.
"Did you love him so much?" she asked softly.
"Who?" was the surprising answer.
"Why--Mr. Weatherstone," said Mrs. Porne.
"No--not very much. But he was something."
Isabel was puzzled. "I knew you so well in school," she said, "and that
gay year in Paris. You were always a dear, submissive quiet little
thing--but not like this. What's happened Viva?"
"Nothing that anybody can help," said her friend. "Nothing that
matters. What does matter, anyway? Fuss and fuss and fuss. Dress and
entertain. Travel till you're tired, and rest till you're crazy!
Then--when a real thing happens--there's all this!" and she lifted her
black draperies disdainfully. "And mourning notepaper and cards and
servant's livery--and all the things you mustn't do!"
Isabel put an arm around her. "Don't mind, dear--you'll get over
this--you are young enough yet--the world is full of things to do!"
But Mrs. Weatherstone only smiled her faint smile again. "I loved
another man, first," she said. "A real one. He died. He never cared
for me at all. I cared for nothing else--nothing in life. That's why I
married Martin Weatherstone--not for his old millions--but he really
cared--and I was sorry for him. Now he's dead. And I'm wearing
this--and still mourning for the other one."
Isabel held her hand, stroked it softly, laid it against her cheek.
"Oh, I'll feel differently in time, perhaps!" said her visitor.
"Maybe if you took hold of the house--if you ran things
yourself,"--ventured Mrs. Porne.
Mrs. Weatherstone laughed. "And turn out the old lady? You don't know
her. Why she managed her son till he ran away from her--and after he
got so rich and imported her from Philadelphia to rule over Orchardina
in general and his household in particular, she managed that poor little
first wife of his into her grave, and that wretched boy--he's the only
person that manages her! She's utterly spoiled him--that was his
father's constant grief. No, no--let her run the house--she thinks she
"She's fond of you, isn't she?" asked Mrs. Porne.
"O I guess so--if I let her have her own way. And she certainly saves
me a great deal of trouble. Speaking of trouble, there they are--she
said she'd stop for me."
At the gate puffed the big car, a person in livery rang the bell, and
Mrs. Weatherstone kissed her friend warmly, and passed like a heavy
shadow along the rose-bordered path. In the tonneau sat a massive old
lady in sober silks, with a set impassive countenance, severely correct
in every feature, and young Mat Weatherstone, sulky because he had to
ride with his grandmother now and then. He was not a nice young man.
Diantha found it hard to write her home letters, especially to Ross.
She could not tell them of all she meant to do; and she must tell them
of this part of it, at once, before they heard of it through others.
To leave home--to leave school-teaching, to leave love--and "go out to
service" did not seem a step up, that was certain. But she set her red
lips tighter and wrote the letters; wrote them and mailed them that
evening, tired though she was.
Three letters came back quickly.
Her mother's answer was affectionate, patient, and trustful, though not
Her sister's was as unpleasant as she had expected.
"The _idea!_" wrote Mrs. Susie. "A girl with a good home to live in and
another to look forward to--and able to earn money _respectably!_ to go
out and work like a common Irish girl! Why Gerald is so mortified he
can't face his friends--and I'm as ashamed as I can be! My own sister!
You must be _crazy_--simply _crazy!_"
It was hard on them. Diantha had faced her own difficulties bravely
enough; and sympathized keenly with her mother, and with Ross; but she
had not quite visualized the mortification of her relatives. She found
tears in her eyes over her mother's letter. Her sister's made her both
sorry and angry--a most disagreeable feeling--as when you step on the
cat on the stairs. Ross's letter she held some time without opening.
She was in her little upstairs room in the evening. She had swept,
scoured, scalded and carbolized it, and the hospitally smell was now
giving way to the soft richness of the outer air. The "hoo! hoo!" of
the little mourning owl came to her ears through the whispering night,
and large moths beat noiselessly against the window screen. She kissed
the letter again, held it tightly to her heart for a moment, and opened
"Dearest: I have your letter with its--somewhat surprising--news. It is
a comfort to know where you are, that you are settled and in no danger.
"I can readily imagine that this is but the preliminary to something
else, as you say so repeatedly; and I can understand also that you are
too wise to tell me all you mean to be beforehand.
"I will be perfectly frank with you, Dear.
"In the first place I love you. I shall love you always, whatever you
do. But I will not disguise from you that this whole business seems to
me unutterably foolish and wrong.
"I suppose you expect by some mysterious process to "develope" and
"elevate" this housework business; and to make money. I should not love
you any better if you made a million--and I would not take money from
you--you know that, I hope. If in the years we must wait before we can
marry, you are happier away from me--working in strange kitchens--or
offices--that is your affair.
"I shall not argue nor plead with you, Dear Girl; I know you think you
are doing right; and I have no right, nor power, to prevent you. But if
my wish were right and power, you would be here to-night, under the
shadow of the acacia boughs--in my arms!
"Any time you feel like coming back you will be welcome, Dear.
Any time she felt like coming back?
Diantha slipped down in a little heap by the bed, her face on the
letter--her arms spread wide. The letter grew wetter and wetter, and
her shoulders shook from time to time.
But the hands were tight-clenched, and if you had been near enough you
might have heard a dogged repetition, monotonous as a Tibetan prayer
mill: "It is right. It is right. It is right." And then. "Help
me--please! I need it." Diantha was not "gifted in prayer."
When Mr. Porne came home that night he found the wifely smile which is
supposed to greet all returning husbands quite genuinely in evidence.
"O Edgar!" cried she in a triumphant whisper, "I've got such a nice
girl! She's just as neat and quick; you've no idea the work she's done
today--it looks like another place already. But if things look queer at
dinner don't notice it--for I've just given her her head. I was so
tired, and baby bothered so, and she said that perhaps she could manage
all by herself if I was willing to risk it, so I took baby for a
car-ride and have only just got back. And I _think_ the dinner's going
to be lovely!"
It was lovely. The dining-room was cool and flyless. The table was set
with an assured touch. A few of Orchardina's ever ready roses in a
glass bowl gave an air of intended beauty Mrs. Porne had had no time
The food was well-cooked and well-served, and the attendance showed an
intelligent appreciation of when people want things and how they want
Mrs. Porne quite glowed with exultation, but her husband gently
suggested that the newness of the broom was visibly uppermost, and that
such palpable perfections were probably accompanied by some drawbacks.
But he liked her looks, he admitted, and the cooking would cover a
multitude of sins.
On this they rested, while the week went by. It was a full week, and a
short one. Mrs. Porne, making hay while the sun shone, caught up a
little in her sewing and made some conscience-tormenting calls.
When Thursday night came around she was simply running over with
information to give her husband.
"Such a talk as I have had with Miss Bell! She is so queer! But she's
nice too, and it's all reasonable enough, what she says. You know she's
studied this thing all out, and she knows about it--statistics and
things. I was astonished till I found she used to teach school. Just
think of it! And to be willing to work out! She certainly does her
work beautiful, but--it doesn't seem like having a servant at all. I
feel as if I--boarded with her!"
"Why she seemed to me very modest and unpresuming," put in Mr. Porne.
"O yes, she never presumes. But I mean the capable way she manages--I
don't have to tell her one thing, nor to oversee, nor criticize. I
spoke of it and she said, 'If I didn't understand the business I should
have no right to undertake it."
"That's a new point of view, isn't it?" asked her husband. "Don't they
usually make you teach them their trade and charge for the privilege?"
"Yes, of course they do. But then she does have her disadvantages--as
"Does she? What are they?"
"Why she's so--rigid. I'll read you her--I don't know what to call it.
She's written out a definite proposition as to her staying with us, and
I want you to study it, it's the queerest thing I ever saw."
The document was somewhat novel. A clear statement of the hours of
labor required in the position, the quality and amount of the different
kinds of work; the terms on which she was willing to undertake it, and
all prefaced by a few remarks on the status of household labor which
made Mr. Porne open his eyes.
Thus Miss Bell; "The ordinary rate for labor in this state, unskilled
labor of the ordinary sort, is $2.00 a day. This is in return for the
simplest exertion of brute force, under constant supervision and
direction, and involving no serious risk to the employer."
"Household labor calls for the practice of several distinct crafts, and,
to be properly done, requires thorough training and experience. Its
performer is not only in a position of confidence, as necessarily
entrusted with the care of the employer's goods and with knowledge of
the most intimate family relations; but the work itself, in maintaining
the life and health of the members of the household, is of most vital
"In consideration of existing economic conditions, however, I am willing
to undertake these intricate and responsible duties for a seven day week
at less wages than are given the street-digger, for $1.50 a day."
"Good gracious, my dear!" said Mr. Porne, laying down the paper, "This
young woman does appreciate her business! And we're to be let off easy
at $45.00 a month, are we"
"And feel under obligations at that!" answered his wife. "But you read
ahead. It is most instructive. We shall have to ask her to read a
paper for the Club!"
"'In further consideration of the conditions of the time, I am willing
to accept part payment in board and lodging instead of cash. Such
accommodations as are usually offered with this position may be rated at
$17.00 a month."
"O come now, don't we board her any better than that?"
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