Works of Annie Fields
CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER
by Mrs. James T. Fields
New York: McClure, Phillips, & Co., 1904.
Contemporary Men of Letters Series.
Charles Dudley Warner was distinctively a man of his own day. He was enlisted for the men and women who made his world. He knew the past, for he was a man of letters; the future he did not know; he was content to leave that to the Father of us all; the present was his field.
Warner's acceptation of the present and the way he lived for it was a peculiar and distinguishing gift. Planting his feet firmly on the knowledge he never ceased to acquire, he was ready to speak at call before any assembly when he was invited, or to hold his part in any conversation. Never dull, never insistent, but gracefully, helpfully, joyously furthering the ends of any interesting occasion whatever it might be. The generosity of his nature and a certain self-possession enabled him to be profoundly social. There was no day, no hour, no moment, no thing which he would not give, if he could, to a fellow-mortal who needed his presence or his help. That the demand was important to some one else made it important enough for him to consider. This wide sympathy fitted him to be what he became -- a newspaper editor of distinction, a writer of many books, primarily for his contemporaries, but so well done that some of his published work will live beyond his time.
He could say "no" with the best, yet it would be after considering if he might not say "yes." His large sympathy made him a large man among his fellows. He pursued his ends without let or hindrance, being concentrated on the manner of working which was natural to him. The final means not only of his progress, but of all real progress, he believed to be literature, or the power of making permanent what is worthy.
His first book, when a mere boy, was a compilation called "A Book of Eloquence for Students." His second was published quite twenty years later, a delightful and amusing home picture called "My Summer in a Garden"; but before, behind, and beyond the yearly books which ensued upon the success of his "Garden" was the never-ceasing flow of newspaper and magazine writing, wherein he was steadily using the power that was his for the public good.
Charles Dudley Warner was born in Plainfield, Massachusetts, September 12, 1829, a country boy without wealth or special opportunity. His opportunity was always his own brain, his own heart, his own steady-growing virtue. His father died a young man, thirty-six years old, and when Charles was only five; there was a brother George, one year old, and these two little boys, with their mother, who came from Cazenovia, New York, lived for three lonely years on their cold upland farm of two hundred acres, "blown by wind and beaten by shower," and nearly buried by the snows of winter. For the farm was the only inheritance of Charles's father, whose brother and sisters each and all went westward, leaving the land to him, Justus by name, to do what he could with the unrewarding soil. Plainfield was not a town to be judged by the standards of some country towns to-day; that and Cummington, its neighbor, where William Cullen Bryant was born; Ashfield, doubtless, and many another township of that part of New England, were settled by descendants of the Mayflower immigrants, or from the colony which moved to Hartford from Cambridge in 1636, under their leader, Thomas Hooker, and afterward left Connecticut for a less-restricted religious atmosphere. Warner's paternal ancestor was one of the Connecticut colony who seceded, probably with companions, and came northward. He must have been pathetically ignorant of New England hill-country climate to have bought a farm 2,200 feet above the sea upon which to support a family and bequeath its storms and its stones to his descendants forever. But the land may have been allotted, as was sometimes done in those early days, to desirable settlers.
Warner's mother descended from one of the voyagers in the Mayflower, Cooke, whose name is duly inscribed in the Plymouth records. Her people came first to live in a town adjacent to Plainfield, Hawley, and removed to Cazenovia while Charles's mother was a little girl. It was natural enough that affectionate connections once made between the two families should have grown stronger rather than weaker upon the removal of one of the families to Cazenovia. Certain it is that Justus Warner went thither to seek his wife Sylvia (Russell Hitchcock), and to bring her back to the familiar vicinity from which her parents' removal seemed to have transplanted her; but the "little god" is ever at his work, and Charles was to be born in Plainfield, one mile from the old church of his parents and grandparents. Doubtless at the sad moment of her young husband's death the little boy Charles often seemed to his mother "a great help," but at the age of five this help must naturally be taken in a moral sense. The labour on the farm must be performed by hired men; and while he was a cheerful, loving, intelligent child and a joy to his mother's heart, the burdens of unusual business and unremunerative farming must often have weighed upon her mind. We cannot doubt that her boy continually surprised her by his sympathetic insight and cleverness, but five years have their limitations. She went on bravely, wishing to keep her children with her, until Charles was eight years old and his brother four, then, yielding to the kind suggestions of relatives and friends, she left her home forever.
In the town of Charlemont, eight miles from Plainfield, on the Deerfield River, lived an intelligent man, a farmer, Jonas Patch by name, a connection of the family who was willing to become Charles's guardian. It was a necessity that the boy should now go to school and begin a new life. The reasons for the change were sufficient, the farm was sold and a share of the money that came from it was carefully husbanded for Charles's education, because his father's latest words were that "Charles must go to college."
Plainfield was not a place of ordinary farming people, as we have already intimated. The minister of the old Presbyterian church, Parson Hallock, was a man of intellect and learning and set the pace. Justus Warner, and his father before him, owned and read good books, and the people met and talked together as did the people described by Mrs. Stowe. Charles had always found standard English books on shelves where he could reach them; there was a fine portrait of his father painted in Boston by a good artist, "in a dress which seemed elegant," hanging on the walls. His father was evidently a man of knowledge and promise. Thus his mother's happy associations belonged to Plainfield, all her young hopes and ambitions of early married life were centred there, and, in leaving Plainfield for Charlemont, she left everything that was dear to her except her boys, and upon them her life, she felt, should now be concentrated.
On arriving at Charlemont, Jonas Patch, a man "of excellent standing and influence in the community," gladly received the oldest boy and brought the best possible influences to bear upon him. Many years after Charles's first literary successes and travels abroad, in his maturity, it seems to have occurred to him how good it might be for future boys and future guardians, as well as how amusing for the world in general, to read a boy's true experiences between the ages of eight and twelve, on a New England farm. The integrity of his character gave him the very rare power of telling the exact truth regarding his own life. The books of Warner are real autobiography. Whatever the subject may be of which he treats, it is his own experience of that subject. His life was not eventful, in the usual meaning of that term, but he lived and felt genuinely always, could and would speak the truth, and enjoyed every hour like a true Christian.
In 1877 he published "Being a Boy," a book giving a delightful picture of his experiences on Jonas Patch's farm. He says: "The rural life described is that of New England between 1830 and 1850, in a period of darkness before the use of lucifer matches … . I invented nothing -- not an adventure, not a scene, not an emotion. I know from observation how difficult it is for an adult to write about childhood. Invention is apt to supply details that memory does not carry." Not with Warner when he undertakes to tell a true story! Here we have an unvarnished picture of the boy, "the father of the man."
"One of the best things in the world to be is a boy," he says; "it requires no experience, though it needs some practice to be a good one … . The proudest day of my life was one day when I rode on the neap of the cart, and drove the oxen all alone, with a load of apples, to the cider mill. I was so little that it was a wonder that I did not fall off and get under the broad wheels. Nothing could make a boy, who cared anything for his appearance, feel flatter than to be run over by the broad tire of a cart-wheel. But I never heard of one who was, and I don't believe one ever will be … . There are so many bright spots in the life of a farm-boy that I sometimes think I should like to live the life over again; I should be almost willing to be a girl if it were not for the chores … . I have often thought it fortunate that the amount of noise in a boy does not increase in proportion to his age; if it did the world could not contain it." … .
He runs on in this pleasant way, betraying his own nature at every point. Once he reminds us of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, whose wit held London on the alert, yet wrote: "Sit still, think, and do nothing." Warner says: "A boy can stand on one leg as well as a Holland stork … . If he had his way, he would do nothing in a hurry; he likes to stop and think about things, and enjoy his work as he goes along."
Meanwhile the years were slipping away and the time approaching when another school must be found for a boy whose tastes were proved to be distinctly scholarly. "He tells at home that he has seen the most wonderful book that ever was, and a big boy has promised to lend it to him. 'Is it a true book, John?' asked the grandmother; 'because if it isn't true, it is the worst thing that a boy can read.' … . John cannot answer as to the truth of the book, and so does not bring it into the house, but he borrows it, nevertheless, and conceals it in the barn, and, lying in the hay-mow, is lost in its enchantments many an odd hour when he is supposed to be doing chores. There were no chores in the 'Arabian Nights'; the boy there had but to rub the ring and summon a genie who would feed the calves and pick up chips and bring in wood in a minute. It was through this emblazoned portal that the boy walked into the world of books, which he soon found was larger than his own, and filled with people he longed to know."
When Charles was twelve came the next important step in his life. His mother's brother, in Cazenovia, took the family back to that pleasant town, where Charles was soon placed in the Methodist Seminary, a school of note in that part of the country. He did not become a Methodist -- his family were all Presbyterians -- and possibly he did not give much thought to the subject. In later years he liked to go to the Episcopal Church, especially that of Dr. Rainsford in New York; when in Hartford his friendship for Mr. Twichell would not allow him to think of going elsewhere than to Mr. Twichell's church. It was not long before he was talked of as the first boy in his class, and on commencement day he carried off the chief prize. The "Oneida Conference Seminary," for such it was called, was a co-educational school, and it is probable that a certain power which he possessed, peculiarly, of making friendship with women and enjoying their society in what would seem a perfectly natural way (if it were oftener seen in the world), may have been acquired there. It was on the graduating day of his class when it was noised abroad that a handsome lad, Warner, was to make the prize address, that he was first seen by a little girl, Susan Lee, whom he afterward married.
Meantime Charles kept steadily at other work beside his books -- else the small patrimony might not have held out for college. He associated himself with the printing office of the local paper; then he went into a book-store; and finally served in the post-office as a clerk. He must have been studying all the time, for when he found himself able to go to college he entered as sophomore at Hamilton, in the town of Clinton. Thence he graduated with a reputation for literary acquirements in 1851. One other experience was his in the way of education, probably preceding the glorious days of the seminary. He had an aunt who was a Quaker, who lived in the town of De Ruyter, where there was a school of very high repute. Charles was invited by this aunt to make her a long visit and attend the De Ruyter school. It was an invitation not to be resisted.
Here Charles evidently enjoyed himself a great deal, one of his chief pleasures being that of finding his lifelong friend, a boy at the same school, Wirt Dexter. When, after this, and the college days at Hamilton being ended (he entered Hamilton at nineteen), he found himself a man of twenty-one, with the problem still unsettled, the problem which confronts every young man: "What shall I do with my talents, which way shall I turn?" With some men, especially if they are to be artists of any kind, with pen or pencil, this season may be lingering and painful, but Warner, having no one but himself to lean upon and being confirmed in his desire to study law, needed only to settle with himself as to ways and means to this end. Whatever he might one day accomplish in the field of letters, he knew there was no possibility of maintaining himself properly at first in this career, beside he needed the equipment of the law, the definite knowledge which a profession brings. Unhappily at this juncture his health failed, but he secured a position in an engineering corps surveying for railroads in the State of Missouri. Two years in the open restored him entirely. His clear blue eyes and his fresh complexion took on their wonted look of health once more, and receiving an invitation at this juncture from one of his college friends in Philadelphia, Charles went there at once to look about him. The grandfather of this friend was a conveyancer, and urged Charles to begin his studies in law straightway, and come as soon as possible into his office.
Young Warner applied himself to the work with unremitting energy, encouraged and helped on by his generous friends, and the day he began to practice he married Susan Lee. Their marriage took place in the year 1856. He studied law faithfully, but the practice of the profession never agreed with him. He found it very harassing. He did not think of settling in Chicago, but later while on a journey another college friend persuaded him to go into business there with him, and the sign Davenport & Warner was very soon put up. He took a modest house, furnished it with the greatest simplicity and taste, and here his delightful home life began. He had a few friends in Chicago to start with, Wirt Dexter among others, and probably the most intimate. Unhappily the hard times of 1856, 1857, and 1858 are still rememberable, and Warner did not immediately succeed to his liking in those days of peculiar difficulty for young professional men.
At this time one of his Eastern friends, Mr. Joseph R. Hawley, had become the editor of a Republican paper just started in Hartford, Conn., The Press. He wished Charles Warner to assist him in the editorship, and went to Chicago to try to induce him to return to the East and to live in Hartford. Small time was lost in coming to a decision, but what could they do with the pleasant house? At that moment Wirt Dexter determined to marry and wanted a place to live. The lease was assumed by him, but how about the furnishings? "Oh," said Warner, "I paid just so many hundred dollars for everything in this house, and you shall have it all for that if you will." The money was paid, the Warners went to Hartford; the following year General Hawley was called to the war and Warner took the sole editorship of The Evening Press. He would have gone to the war himself except for his extreme short-sightedness, which forced him to stay at home and serve the country by his pen. This service he never quitted. After the war he and his friend were able to buy the Hartford Courant, and consolidate the two papers, making a powerful journal which has always held its own and something more. It would be deeply interesting to follow his war papers from day to day, but we can only refer to them here. One summer when the hearts of men were very low Warner said: "Look here, this will never do; suppose I write a few editorials during these weeks of August which shall give people something to laugh about and something to think about that is cheerful? He went to his desk and every week printed one of the editorials afterward put together in the book called "My Summer in a Garden," and published by Fields & Osgood in 1870. Henry Ward Beecher wrote an introductory letter saying: "In our feverish days, it is a sign of health or of convalescence that men love gentle pleasure … . The love of rural life, the habit of finding enjoyment in familiar things … is worth a thousand fortunes of money or its equivalent."
The editorials, and later the book, gained at once a happy fame. The fruit of this garden was unexpected. Many a heart was soothed and stimulated by it. The influence upon the writer was no less wholesome. He returns to his boyish habits: "I like to go into the garden," he says, "these warm latter days and muse. To muse is to sit in the sun and not think of anything!" The wit and humour of the pages are exquisite, and so are the delightful glimpses of home life, which with him never lost its savour. Polly and he understood one another too well to be disturbed by shafts of fun launched at each other's expense. "What might have become of the garden, if Polly's advice had been followed, a good Providence only knows; but I never worked there without a consciousness that she might at any moment come down the walk, under the grape-arbour, bestowing glances of approval, that were none the worse for not being critical … . It was this bright presence that filled the garden, as it did the summer, with light."...
The combination of work and play to be found in his garden, as in every true garden, fills the reader with sympathetic pleasure. "Hoeing on a bright soft May day, when you are not obliged to, is nearly equal to the delight of going trouting." His fun about weeding seems truly immortal. "Pusley" received its deathblow in spite of a letter entreating him to pause because a certain lady's husband had been so inflamed with zeal that in her absence "he had rooted up all her beds of portulaca (a sort of cousin of the pot weed), and utterly cast it out." The table of the garden's profit and loss is very amusing. He says: "I have tried to make the table so as to satisfy the income tax collector … . I have had some difficulty in fixing the rate of my own wages. It was the first time that I had an opportunity of paying what I thought labour was worth … . I figured it right down to European prices, seventeen cents a day for unskilled labour. Of course, I boarded myself."
The years of our great war were stimulating and very hard-working years for the young editor. Those who have watched him at his desk say it was extraordinary to see with what apparent ease he turned off long and serious pieces of writing. When he determined that a thing was to be done, he went without hesitation or delay to his writing, and while another man would be considering the topic, he would have worked it out pen in hand; but with the next decade his books began to appear and he was no longer so closely tied to his journalism. His interest in The Courant was as great as ever. He had unremitting editorial oversight, but he no longer filled the whole editorial page, on occasion of necessity, by his own pen.
The war having ended and his work having settled into more definite shape, he went with his wife for their first journey to Europe. He needed change and repose. His editorials went on continuously, as if he were at home, but the subjects differed, and the papers were to be gathered into books. In the year 1872 he published two volumes -- one "Saunterings," recording his first experiences and impressions in Europe; the other "Back-Log Studies," a delightful series of essays on home-life written after his return.
"Back-Log Studies" invites us into his home with the easy cordiality and true hospitality which were his own. The lesson to Peter, when the great sheet knit at the four corners was let down containing all manner of birds and beasts and he was commanded to call nothing common, was never needed by Warner's catholic mind and heart. In none of his books does one see this so clearly, nor indeed do we anywhere find his wit more exquisite, his native sunshine more at large than between these covers. He says: "A wood fire on the hearth is a kindler of the domestic virtues." The whole book is a kind of apotheosis of home, portraying his modest ideal of what almost every happy pair can attain who are not stricken too deeply by discouragements and woes. Speaking of the world generally as being "a little off the track," he says: "Our American economy leaves no place for amusements; we merely add them to the burden of a life already full"; and speaking of building the house he continues: "It took the race ages to build dwellings that would keep out rain; it has taken longer to build houses airtight, but we are on the eve of success. We are only foiled by the ill-fitting, insincere work of the builders, who build for a day and charge for all time." The talk became very wise and pleasant by that fireside both in reality and in the book. As to the latter it would be hard to find one pleasanter to read aloud for a small group of friends on a rainy day, who like the kind of writing that suggests conversation and music and friendly interruptions. "Daylight disenchants," he says, "it draws one from the fireside and dissipates the idle illusions of conversation, except under certain conditions. Let us say these conditions are: A house in the country, with some forest-trees near and a few evergreens, … a snowstorm beginning out of a dark sky, falling in a soft profusion that fills all the air … . Nothing makes us feel at home like a great snowstorm … . In point of pure enjoyment, with an intellectual sparkle in it, I suppose that no luxurious lounging on tropical isles, set in tropical seas, compares with the positive happiness one may have before a great wood fire (not two sticks laid crossways in a grate) with a veritable New England winter raging outside. In order to get the highest enjoyment, the faculties must be alert and not be lulled into a mere recipient dullness." … . It was a late spring that year. "There was a popular longing for spring that was almost a prayer. Easter was set a week earlier than the year before, but nothing seemed to do any good. We agreed, however, that, but for disappointed expectations and the prospect of late lettuce and peas, we were gaining by the fire as much as we were losing by the frost." …
The spirit of the book may be gathered from these brief passages, but for the charming humour of it one must go to the pages themselves. We must write of Warner as a man, and of his books only as they express his nature and make evident the settled purposes of his life; and so we deny ourselves longer quotations. "Back-Log Studies" has a peculiar charm because it marks a period in a beneficent existence when a man of thoughtful mind looks about him and plants his feet as he does his trees among those who are to make his world, and recognises his home as the foundation of true work and development.
One of the Warners' near neighbours was Mr. S. L. Clemens (Mark Twain), and in 1873 the two authors ventured upon what is always a more or less unsatisfactory scheme, writing a book together. It was a satire called "The Gilded Age." In the preface the authors say, over their signatures, that every chapter was written jointly, the idea being to portray peculiarities developed in our country by the sudden acquisition of great wealth and the opening up of vast areas and new schemes suggested by new opportunities. With all its ingenuities and cleverness, the book can hardly be called a literary success. A one-man power is always a necessity for true success, whether in the conception and execution of a book or in the government of the police of cities. Very close relations grew up between the two families, and in a note from Mr. Clemens after Warner's death he says, in reply to an appeal to him for letters: "Alas, and alas, we are packed for Italy, and all valued letters are packed and stored with the silver and hymn-books. There were not many, of course, we being near neighbours, and communicating mainly by mouth. I wish I could send you Warner's Invocation to L. on St. Valentine's morning, beginning:
"Come out into the slush, dear,
In your gracious galoshes shod,"
but that is packed, too. I am of no use in reminiscing -- my memory is worthless. Warner was always saying brilliant things, felicitous things, but one can't carry them in the mind in their exact language, and without that their glory is gone. But there is one remark -- not made by Warner -- which we do not forget. You will note in it the sunshine shed by his personality. One day a young friend of ours came in with a fine light in her eye, and said: 'I've just had a good-morning from Mr. Warner, and I'm a happy girl for the day!'"
Mrs. Stowe was still living at that time and was a near neighbour also and most honoured guest, roaming at will in and out of the Warners' house, and in her latest age seating herself at the piano, playing and singing sometimes in her own weird fashion to the empty air.
The Reverend Joseph Twichell was one of Warner's dearest Hartford friends. Mr. Twichell was so often introduced into Warner's conversation that many persons felt they had a certain acquaintance and wished they knew him better. The great preacher has lately written of his friend: "His humour was in all circumstances unforced, seeming to be unintended -- the simply natural expression of the man. In the main it was of a playful quality, yet it could, too, on occasion, take on edge. When the late war with Spain was declared, which he held to have been avoidable and earnestly deprecated, coming one Sunday out of church, after hearing a sermon in which the preacher -- who it may as well be owned was the present writer -- had discoursed on war in the light of its incidental benefits, he said he had felt like rising in his place in the congregation and offering the motion: 'That, in consonance with the views just presented, we postpone the Christian religion to a more convenient season.' … .When he first came to the notice of the general public as a writer and humourist, he was often spoken of as a new Charles Lamb. This he laughed at … . Yet, notwithstanding his disclaimer … in the genial, gentle feeling for humanity, characteristic of his humour, Charles Dudley Warner was certainly a spiritual brother of Charles Lamb … . But his humour was always a more observable feature of his speech than of his writing. Nowhere else did it come so fully out as in his common talk … . While on a visit to the Bermudas, as in our rambles up and down we passed the little single-room school-houses that are frequent in those islands, Warner, who was ever on the sociological quest, was quite apt to step in, and with apologies for interruption, interview the teachers, man or woman, black or white, and, after introductory statistical inquiries, draw out the teacher's opinions on educational and other matters. On various such occasions, at his suggestion, classes were called up to recite before him, and to them he propounded questions, sometimes outside the province of the subject of their recitation, obtaining, in instances, answers remarkable and exceedingly entertaining. It was all done in a manner of interest and friendliness which was, indeed, unfeigned, and with an entire gravity of demeanour which the bystander found it extremely difficult to preserve. … . But that fashion of gleaning was one of his ways, and reveals a source of the material of humour with which he was supplied; it hints the secret, too, of the human sympathy with which his humour was pervaded … . For more than thirty years Charles Dudley Warner was my neighbour and friend. The humour, softly radiant, refined … that was so distinct a feature of his mind and utterance, was memorably to me one of the refreshments that went with his dear company for all that time. But though the impression of it vividly remains, and cannot but be abiding, in trying to convey that impression, far fewer things to the purpose than I should have expected return to me in shape to tell." … .
While his friendships were growing more numerous, deeper, and stronger at home, Warner's life was widening in its reach. The newspaper and his books were anchors holding him to Hartford perpetually, but he was aware that his work would be enriched by a wider knowledge of the world and by the rest which comes with change. Therefore, in the thirty years of life between 1870 and 1900, the year of his death, Warner made five journeys to Europe, involving seven years of absence. These five absences yielded good literary fruit not alone directly by his books of travel, but by the general enriching of life and thought which such journeys and such close observation afford.
In the summer of 1873 he went to Nova Scotia with his friend Mr. Twichell, making Baddeck his objective point. A pleasant little book, which he calls "Baddeck and That Sort of Thing: Notes of a Sunny Fortnight in the Provinces," was the result, dedicated to his fellow-traveller.
Hartford was soon regarded as a half-way land of rest between New York and Boston. It began to be a habit with him to spend a week or two every winter in or about Boston. An earlier acquaintance with Howells was now ripening into the friendship of a lifetime. Howells was then living in Cambridge and editor of the Atlantic Monthly. Norton's house, with its generous hospitalities, was also open to him, and Longfellow was there with his kindly welcome. Warner wrote to Howells in March, 1873, from Hartford: "To have your good opinion of 'Back Logs' would quite content me, but to have it expressed so exquisitely nearly upsets me. Your analysis of that first sentence is so much better than the sentence itself that I think I shall ask Mr. Osgood to substitute it in the next edition. And you have me at a perpetual disadvantage. For if ever I try to express my opinion of the 'Chance Acquaintance' at length, I should quite fail I am sure. We read it with increasing delight in your subtle opening of the characters of the two lovers. I suppose it wouldn't do to tie a bunch of firecrackers to A.'s coat-tail, would it? And you are coming pretty soon? … "
Returning from Boston to Hartford, the following week would often find him in New York, where the Century, the Authors', and the Players' clubs threw their doors open to him, as the Tavern Club and the University loved to do in Boston.
Again he writes to Howells in 1874: "Failing to obtain either a clerkship or any back or forward pay at Washington, I came home last night. Hartford is after all the best place for an honest man who is poor. If you only lived here I should be content never to go away any more. I find on my return the flavour of your visit just as strong as it was when you left. Have you found out yet -- I suppose you have -- that better than reputation in Peoria and Hong Kong is the attachment of one sincere person who is fond of you?"
In May he writes: "My dear Mr. Howells: To-day is fit to make a body cry; sky distant and deep blue, clouds fleecy and floating, the world full of apple-blossoms. On such a day you said you'd come. You admit that man is a twofold being. It takes two of him to make one. You promised long ago to visit here. You admit that. How did you keep your promise? You only half came. Now we expect the whole of you. We are compelled to look upon you, although you are poet, essayist, traveller, and critic, as only a fraction, without Mrs. Howells." In August, of the same year, he continues: "You dear old fellow, and you are not so very old either when you come to think of it, but I couldn't be fonder of you if you were as old as Catherine Beecher." Again he says, in October: "My dear friend, since you will not let me give you the title of 'Mr.,' which Harvard conferred on you, the time has come to say good-bye, and I hate to say it and am not jocular a bit. I was lonesome a good while after we came away from your sincere household. It almost makes me cry now to see Johnny with swollen eyes and suppressed sobs thrusting his hands into the basket of grapes, and casting glances upon the wreck on the table to see if there was anything else that could better stay his grief. Happy boyhood that can conquer grief by filling the mouth. You wouldn't believe what a great place you have got in my heart, both of you in both our hearts? I feel so much richer for it. God keep us all safe and well, and give us more days for the enjoyment of a friendship which I believe has no selfishness in it."
The last letter of the year is from Cairo as he is leaving to go up the Nile, a long, full letter, such as a skilled writer can write and a friend loves to receive. I can only give a hint of it here. Every reader of Warner should know his "Winter on the Nile," and, knowing that, the charming description in this letter need not be reproduced. He says: "I only write to give you a last word before we start, and to tell you how much you both have been in our minds. I know the situation would take hold of you powerfully. We have wanted you ever since we have been in Egypt … . For myself I have no human feeling when I am cold, and very little when the sky is cloudy. As yet I have written nothing -- save a letter of news to the New York Times --barely in my diary. I have had no leisure, and, besides, how can one write with such a crowd of new things before the eye? … . Do you know what a dreary thing a newspaper is, and what relation has that thing you call literature to this vast serenity and on-going of the ages into which we have fallen. I felt ashamed of myself when I looked at the sphinx, and that great pyramid -- is it not more important to find out what it was built for than it is to keep the run of your little politics and our small book-making? What a tremendous space we Americans fill in history! And we are about to celebrate our centennial. I saw a wooden statue of fine workmanship in the museum here that is probably 6,000 years old. Did you see that magnificent Doric temple at Pæstum which was built before the she-wolf suckled Romulus? Just over yonder is old Cairo, built not long after the hegira of the Prophet. There is a portion of the citadel built by Saladin. All about and under Cairo are the mountainous ruins of cities and civilisations. And will you still publish what you are pleased to call the Atlantic Monthly? Just now I went out of our front door to look at the stars and stepped upon an Arab. Perhaps it was only a Nubian, one of our crew, who are sleeping under the sky on our lower deck. Well, God bless you both. I wish I could see you just for half an hour."
"My Winter on the Nile" is perhaps the acme of Warner's achievements in his books of travel. The southern sun, the rest, the fresh field of observation seemed to satisfy his physical and mental life, and we can almost warm ourselves in his sunshine. His style is always full of his own charm and exactness. His intelligence, his sympathy, were coming into fullest bloom. He speaks of a family of cultivated Germans on the same steamer "who handle the English language as delicately as if it were glass, and make of it the most naïve and interesting form of speech." At Alexandria he says: "In one moment the Orient flashes upon the bewildered traveller; and though he may travel far and see strange sights, and penetrate the hollow shell of Eastern mystery, he will never see again at once such a complete contrast to all his previous experience." The motto of the book is from "Amrou, Conqueror of Egypt, to the Khalif Omar," and well describes what Warner found to enjoy. "O Commander of the Faithful, Egypt is a compound of black earth and green plants, between a pulverised mountain and a red sand. Along the valley descends a river, on which the blessing of the Most High reposes, both in the evening and the morning, and which rises and falls with the revolutions of the sun and moon. According to the vicissitudes of the seasons, the face of the country is adorned with a silver wave, a verdant emerald, and the deep yellow of a golden harvest."
Warner says: "When we are yet twenty miles from Cairo, there in the southwest, visible for a moment and then hidden by the trees, … are two forms, the sight of which gives us a thrill. They stand still in that purple distance in which we have seen them all our lives. Beyond these level fields and these trees of sycamore and date-palm, beyond the Nile, on the desert's edge, with the low Libyan hills falling off behind them, as delicate in form and colour as clouds, as enduring as the sky they pierce, the Pyramids of Geezeh! I try to shake off the impression of their solemn antiquity, and imagine how they would strike one if all their mystery were removed. But that is impossible. The imagination always prompts the eye. And yet I believe that standing where they do stand and in their atmosphere, they are the most impressive of human structures."
He continues later: -- "The pyramidal towers of the great temple of Medeenet Haboo are thought to be the remains of the palace of Rameses III. Here, indeed, the Egyptologists point out his harem and the private apartments … . It is from such sculptures as one finds here that scholars have been able to rehabilitate old Egyptian society, and tell us not only what the Egyptians did, but what they were thinking about. The scholar to whom we are most indebted for the reconstruction of the ancient life of the Egyptians, Sir Gardner Wilkinson, is able, not only to describe to us a soirée, from paintings in tombs at Thebes, but to tell us what the company talked about and what their emotions were … . This is very wonderful art and proves that the Egyptians excelled all who came after them in the use of the chisel and the brush."
Through all the wonder and enthusiasm inspired by monuments of the past, Warner never failed to see the present. He exclaims, seeing the miserable inhabitants of to-day: "Not more palaces and sugar mills, O Khedive, will save this Egypt, but some plan that will lift these women out of dirt and ignorance!"
At Dakkeh, about seventy miles from Philæ, he speaks of Ergamenes, an Ethiopian king, who is said to have begun the handsome temple at this place, and also to have gained a reputation by a change in his religion as it was practised in Meroë. "When the priests thought a king had reigned long enough, it was their custom to send him notice that the gods had ordered him to die; and the king, who would rather die than commit an impiety, used to die. But Ergamenes tried another method, which he found worked just as well; he assembled all the priests, and slew them -- a very sensible thing on his part."
"Nothing in Egypt," he says, "not even the temples and pyramids, has given us such an idea of the immense labour the Egyptians expended in building as these vast excavations in the rock at Silsilis. We have wondered before where all the stone came from that we have seen piled up in buildings and heaped in miles of ruins; we wonder now what use could have been made of all the stone quarried from these hills … . What hells these quarries must have been," he continued, "for the workmen, exposed to the blaze of a sun intensified by the glaring reflection from the light-coloured rock and stifled for want of air. They have left the marks of their unending task in these little chisellings on the face of the sandstone walls … . These quarries are as deserted now as the temples that were taken from them; but nowhere else in Egypt was I more impressed with the duration, the patience, the greatness of the race that accomplished such prodigies of labour."
It is really difficult to turn away from Warner's book on Egypt. His chapter on the "Tombs at Thebes," in spite of all the learned books written on the subject, is, in its own way, unrivalled.
After the tombs of the kings, he thought little remained which was worth while to visit. He made two expeditions to these gigantic mausoleums. "It is not an easy trip, for they are situated in wild ravines or gorges that lie beyond the western mountains which circle the plains and ruins of Thebes … . The path winds, but it is steep; the sun blazes on it; every step is in pulverised limestone, that seems to have been calcined by the intense heat, and rises in irritating powder; the mountain-side is white, chalky, glaring, reflecting the solar rays with blinding brilliancy, and not a breath of air comes to temper the furnace temperature … . When we pass out of the glare of the sun and descend the incline down which the mummy went, we feel as if we had begun his awful journey. On the walls are sculptured the ceremonies and liturgies of the dead, the grotesque monsters of the under-world, which will meet him and assail him on his pilgrimages, the deities, friendly and unfriendly, the tremendous scenes of cycles of transmigration … . We come at length, whatever other wonders or beauties may detain us, to the king, the royal mummy … . Somewhere in this vast and dark mausoleum the mummy has been deposited; he has with him the roll of the Funeral Ritual; the sacred scarabæus is on his breast; in one chamber bread and wine are set out; his bearers withdraw, the tomb is closed, sealed, all trace of its entrance effaced. The mummy begins its pilgrimage. The Ritual (Lenormant epitome) describes all the series of pilgrimages of the soul in the lower-world; … it embodies the philosophy and religion of Egypt; the basis of it is the immortality of the soul, that is of the souls of the justified, but a clear notion of the soul's personality apart from the body it does not give! … . In this wonderful book the deceased is allowed to speak of his own morality, and among the wonderful things said is the following: "I have given food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and clothes to the naked.'"
June, 1875, finds him writing to Howells from Venice: "We are here at last - the East kept us so long … . I have given half a year to the dead East in these days of centennials and thronging ambitions … . I am writing you this from the top story (with plants in the balconies) of what is probably a poor palace, on the Grand Canal, second door below palace Barboso, and opposite Salviati's glass shop. I have taken this admirable little perch to write in, and was never better suited in my life, only I do wish I had sat up nights and written up Egypt and killed myself in so doing while I was there. It is so hard to bring back the colour and bloom … . "
Again in August, from the same place, he writes: "A photo of the Casa Falieri I cannot find in any of the shops. It is very stupid of the photographers not to take one of the most picturesque houses in Venice, and one so interesting for its occupants. I say nothing of the Falier. I do not care to dig up the dead - but what a world this is, when no more honour is paid to the man who has done more to bring Venice into good repute than any man in the last hundred years, except perhaps Ruskin … . Americans are always floating past and staring about, and probably they don't know that in this very palace the only true history of Egypt and Rameses II is now actually building itself up day by day. Hang it, there is no chance for modest merit. By the way, I want to tell you something. I fell in love with you over again the other day. I chanced upon an English copy of the 'Italian Journeys' and re-read it with intense enjoyment. What felicity, what delicacy. Your handling of the English language charms me to the core, and you catch characters and shades - nu-an-ces - of it. Why do I break out upon you in this bold manner? Well, for this, you are writing another story, probably it is all executed, in fact, now. Probably it is to be another six-months' child. It will be as good as the other, no doubt, and that is saying everything. But, it is time you quit paddling along shore, and strike out into the open. Ask Mrs. Howells (with my love) if it is not so. The time has come for you to make an opus - not only a study on a large canvas, but a picture. Write a long novel, one that we can dive into with confidence, and not feel that we are to strike bottom in the first plunge. Permit me the extent of the figure - we want to swim in you, not merely to lave our faces. I have read Mr. James's 'Roderick Hudson' up to September, and I give in. It is not too much to call it great. What consummate art it all is, no straining, but easily the bull's-eye every time. Another noticeable thing is that, while it is calm and high in culture, there is none of the sneer in it or any cant of culture, and I wonder if the author himself knows that his characters never seem to be used by him as stalking-horses to vent an opinion which the author does not quite care to father. His characters always seem to speak only for themselves. I take it there is no better evidence of the author's success than that."
"In the Levant," which appeared the same year, is a book for travellers to read to-day. Travellers, like biographers, have not been famed in the past for being truth-telling folk, but in the latter part of the nineteenth century, if no earlier, it was discovered that nothing is so witty and attractive as a bit of truth, whether it concerns a man's temper or his journey to the Levant. Warner was one of the men who discovered this. His account of Palestine would keep many a sentimentalist by his own fireside if he had the common sense to read "In the Levant" before starting. The preface says: "In the winter and spring of 1875 the writer made the tour of Egypt and the Levant …. The notes of the journey were taken and the books were written before there were any signs of the present Oriental disturbances, and the observations made are therefore uncoloured by any expectation of the existing state of affairs. Signs enough were visible of a transition period, extraordinary but hopeful; with the existence of poverty, oppression, superstition, and ignorance, were mingling Occidental and Christian influences, the faint beginnings of a revival of learning, and the stronger pulsations of awakening commercial and industrial life. The best hope of this revival was then, as it is now, in peace and not in war." Nearly thirty years have passed since these words were written, and the Turks, with the forlorn peoples under their flag, are still unredeemed, oppressive, unregenerate. "Beyrout," Warner says, "is the brightest spot in Syria or Palestine, the only pleasant city that we saw, and the centre of a moral and intellectual impulse the importance of which we cannot overestimate … . The fitful and unintelligent Turkish rule cannot stifle its exuberant prosperity; but above all the advantages which nature has given it, I should attribute its brightest prospects to the influence of the American mission, and to the establishment of Beyrout College … . The transient visitor can see something of this in the dawning of a better social life, in the beginning of an improvement in the condition of women, in an unmistakable spirit of inquiry, … and this new leaven is not confined to a sect, nor limited to a race; it is working, slowly it is true, in the whole of Syrian society … . Our American Consul was not in good repute with many of the foreign residents … . The dragomans of the Consulate, who act as interpreters and are executors of the Consul's authority, have no pay, but their position gives them a consideration in the community … . The salary of the American Consul at Beyrout is $2,000 - a sum in this expensive city which is insufficient to support a Consul who has a family in the style of a respectable citizen … . The English name is almost universally respected in the East, so far as my limited experience goes, in the character of its consuls; the same cannot be said of the American." This experience of nearly thirty years ago reads as if it were yesterday. It is to be hoped that a better grade of men now go as consuls whose pay is sufficient for the representative of the United States, but that a brave man, Magelsson, the present consul (1903), was supposed only yesterday to be murdered because of his courageous and upright behavior, shows that the Turkish Government may yet need stronger proof that civilised nations can no longer endure such faithlessness and ignorance. "We were not sorry," adds Warner, "to leave even beautiful Beyrout, and would have liked to see the last of Turkish rule as well."
There are few things in the book more characteristic than all he writes of Bethlehem. Among other things he says: "Bethlehem is to all the world one of the sweetest of words. A tender and romantic interest is thrown about it as the burial-place of Rachel, as the scene of Ruth's primitive story, and of David's boyhood and kingly consecration; so that no other place in Judea, by its associations, was so fit to be the gate through which the Divine Child should come into the world. And the traveller to-day can visit it with perhaps less shock to his feelings of reverence, certainly with a purer and simpler enjoyment, than any other place in Holy Land … . There was one chamber, or rather vault, that we entered with genuine emotion. This was the cell of Jerome, hermit and scholar, whose writings have given him the title of Father of the Church … There is, I suppose, no doubt that this is the study in which he composed many of his more important treatises. It is a vaulted chamber, about twenty feet square by nine feet high. There is in Venice a picture of the study of Jerome by Carpaccio, which represents a delightful apartment; the saint is seen in his study in a rich négligé robe; at the side of his desk are musical instruments, music stands, and sheets of music, as if he were accustomed to give soirées; on the chimney-piece are Greek vases and other objects of virtù, and in the middle of the room is a poodle-dog of the most worldly and useless of the canine breed. The artist should have seen the real study of the hermit - a grim unornamented vault, in which he passed his days in mortifications of the body, hearing always ringing in his ears, in his disordered mental and physical condition, the last trump of judgment."
"In the Levant" is full of knowledge and wit and wisdom. It would be difficult to find a truer and lovelier picture of the Ægean Sea and its famous islands; of Ephesus and the remains of the later glories of the Greeks. Of the Athenians he says: "They were an early people; they liked the dewy freshness of the morning; … the rising sun often greeted the orators on the bema and an audience on the terrace below. We had seen the Acropolis in almost every aspect, but I thought one might perhaps catch more of its ancient spirit at sunrise than at any other hour … . The Athenians ought to be assembling on the Pnyx to hear Demosthenes … . One would like to have sat upon these benches, that look on the sea, and listened to a chorus from the Antigone this morning. One would like to have witnessed that scene, when Aristophanes on this stage mimicked and ridiculed Socrates, and the philosopher, rising from his undistinguished seat high up among the people, replied." Warner concludes with these words, satisfactory to all true travellers: "For myself, now that we are out of the Orient and away from all its squalor and cheap magnificence, I turn again to it with a longing which I cannot explain; it is still a land of the imagination."
The Orient will be older and newer, a different land, in short, before another book of travels will be written to compare with the two-in-one of which we have spoken. They are volumes delightful to those who stay at home, enlightening to those who wish to go abroad, and refreshing to all who have suffered the weariness of travel and have not seen so much in the same places. Warner's taste for archaeology, which thus far had been a slumbering inner consciousness, rather than a keen interest developing into knowledge, began to awaken the moment he knew Pæstum on his way to Egypt. With his powers of assimilation and love of study in their ripeness, he emerged from Egypt born anew into one department of human life and knowledge. The joy and excitement of this knowledge never grew dim. It was not like him to insist that others should of necessity feel his interest in Egypt. Therefore, he says in the beginning of his journey that "there is no reason why any one indisposed to do so should accompany us," but "we are off to Pæstum." Even then, after expressing something of the charm of the spot and saying that "in all Europe there are no ruins better worthy the study of the admirer of noble architecture than these," he adds: "The Temple of Neptune is older than the Parthenon, its Doric sister, at Athens. It was probably built before the Persians of Xerxes occupied the Acropolis and saw from there the flight of their ruined fleet out of the Strait of Salamis. It was built when the Doric had attained the acme of its severe majesty, and it is today almost perfect on the exterior … . At first we thought the temple small, and did not even realize its two hundred feet of length, but the longer we looked at it the larger it grew to the eye, until it seemed to expand into gigantic size; and from whatever point it was viewed its harmonious proportions were an increasing delight. The beauty is not in any ornament, for even the pediment is and always was vacant, but in its admirable lines. The two other temples are fine specimens of Greek architecture, also Doric, pure and without fault, with only a little tendency to depart from severe simplicity in the curve of the capitals, and yet they did not interest us. They are of a period only a little later than the Temple of Neptune, and that model was before their builders, yet they missed the extraordinary, many say almost spiritual, beauty of that edifice. We sought the reason, and found it in the fact that there are absolutely no straight lines in the Temple of Neptune. The side rows of columns curve a little out; the end rows curve a little in; at the ends the base line of the columns curves a trifle from the sides to the centre, and the line of the architrave does the same … . It is not repeated in the other temples, the builders of which do not seem to have known its secret. Had the Greek colony lost the art of this perfect harmony in the little time that probably intervened between the erection of these edifices? It was still kept at Athens, as the Temple of Theseus and the Parthenon testify."
It was through the columns of this Temple of Neptune at Pæstum that Warner looked toward Egypt, where he was to see "the first columns, prototypes of the Doric order, chiselled by man." Few travellers, even those who bear the learned title of archæologists, have been so well fitted by nature to explore the unspeakable wonders of the Orient, and from that day in Pæstum until the day when he took his last view of the Ægean Islands his knowledge and fervour grew apace.
July, 1876, found Mr. Warner again in Hartford. He wrote to Mr. Howells: "My dear, dear friend: I have come into this land of Family and Chance Acquaintances and find it hot and dirty, and in debt, and I am in sympathy with it. It is only when I think of you and the dear friends whose presence would make even the peninsula of the White Sea a paradise that I have heart and resolve to do as Cranmer told Ridley to do under similar circumstances, play the man, though I am burnt to a crisp … . Mrs. Warner is sunning herself in the thought that she is at home. That woman is a deep and designing patriot, and would dwell here forever, if her plans were not upset by her private and ill-concealed affection for me … . God bless you for your generous notice of the 'Levant' book. It quite took my breath away, and I am not sure I should have survived, if it were not that Mr. Prime and General McClellan and others of that sort in New York are saying, publicly and privately, that it is the best book written on Egypt. I myself still doubt, however, if it is as good in all respects as the Pentateuch. But I am sincerely astonished at its good reception." Again in December he says: "Just now the nearest thing is old Egypt - the Egypt 1,000 years before Abraham. I am trying to write a lecture about it for the institute here. A weak yielding to go before the public which I suspect I shall bitterly repent. But just now I am tired, tired of writing, of books, of editorials, of politics, of the everlasting squabble. I wish I were a Returning Board; I would elect myself to go on a mission to some misty land of sun and fleas, where the wicked and the weary dwell together and don't care. I am again deeply in your debt for another exceedingly friendly notice, and as graceful as kind. I will not thank you for it, but it gives me courage and comfort. Mr. Ripley condescends to rather sit down on the book with his broad understanding as rather a literary falling off. On the contrary, it seems to me rather less slovenly than some of my other performances. Mark says that "to give a humourous book to Ripley is like sending a first-chop paper of chewing tobacco to a young ladies' seminary for them to review."
With all the literary engagements just referred to above, he naturally found it necessary to get away again in the summer of 1877. The season was spent in the Adirondacks, and another book, "In the Wilderness," was published the following year as a result. It contains an amusing story of a man unaccustomed to rougher wild life than one can meet blackberrying, finding himself face to face with a bear on the same business. It contains also a description of the flight of a doe from the hunters, which is one of the finest appeals of that nature in literature. He wrote to Howells from Hartford in April, 1877: "We greatly enjoyed your first of April letter, but, of course, we do not take it seriously. We are not to be put off by feigned marriage in Quebec, nor by a grand burst into the fashion of Newport. For a person who dislikes society, the Newport cottage is just the thing; it will make him dislike it all the more … . You must come in May. Ask Mrs. Howells to consider how few springs there are in this little life of ours, and what it is to neglect one of them. Is there any good in life except we snatch the little pleasures … . I have just read your last Venice. When that story is ended you are going to stand up among the masters, so keep your head level." Again in October he says: "We shall look for you on the 25th, next Thursday. That will suit us, provided the weather is propitious. Let us hope it will be. The last part of the week suits me, for I have a partial let-up Saturday and Sunday. If the weather is good, we want to take you to the Talcott Mountain Tower and show you the kingdom of the earth dyed red and yellow and brown, and to South Manchester to show you the ideal factory village of the world." And later in the month he wrote: "What a charming visit you gave us, except that it was so wretchedly short. It seemed heartless for us to go to bed while you two were driving on through the sand and darkness of Massachusetts - the native State of neither of you, toward a midnight horse-car termination. We sat up till one o'clock, when we judged you were safe in Boston, and then we stopped talking about you and went to bed. We didn't say anything about you, however, that you might not have heard, if not with profit, certainly with pleasure. We dare to hope that our friendship is a little solidified by this visit and put upon the unremote family ground." In November he says: "I feel greatly encouraged by your opinion of 'My Only Boy.' Isn't he a little like your 'John'? I hope you may like him all through. I only with you were multiplied by 20,000. But I fear you are like Jean Paul, 'The Only One.' I cannot hope that anyone will enter into the spirit of the 'Boy' as you did. I suspect that you saw him a good deal through the form of your dear 'John,' and it is too much to expect that you will lend 'John' to all the people who ought to read and buy the book … the notice is thoroughly lovely and charming, the most sympathetic in the world. It quite takes away my power to give you ordinary thanks. I wish the book were half as good as the notice. Why could you have the heart to carelessly take up your pen in that way and say, 'There, my boy, that was the way to have done it.' Well, it is worth writing a book to get one of your notices, and I am tempted to write an autobiography merely to extract an essay from you. If you were only my enemy now and had written that notice, how I should love you … . We had a very good time in New York and saw a great many people, who saw us … . I liked especially Mr. W. W. Story, whom I saw at the Century, and also at a breakfast at Botta's, where Mr. Bryant and Mr. Ripley and a dozen or two swells were present. Whitelaw Reid was also there." In 1879, writing to Howells from Hartford, he surprises us by saying that he had been writing on "the People for Whom Shakespeare Wrote." The book was not published until 1897, but a large part of it was written, perhaps one-half, enough for two papers of the Atlantic Monthly, in these busy days. In July, 1879, he writes to Howells: "You see I am junketing a good deal though I contrive to keep up my editorial by writing ahead and behind … . Also last week I went to the centennial of the town of Cummington (in which I was nearly born - as Plainfield was set off from it in 1875) and stayed with the two lovely Bryant brothers, who had come on from Princeton, Ill., at the old homestead" … .
Warner's most absorbing topic just at this time was "The Work of Washington Irving," and an essay on this subject is one of his excellent pieces of writing. He also wrote the biography of Irving, the initial volume of the "American Men of Letters Series," of which he was editor. The list of Lives written by men of his choice is an excellent one. He was ambitious to do the work well, and America has to thank him for a biography of Emerson by O. W. Holmes; of Poe by G. E. Woodberry, and other Lives by men of talent and genius, written with distinguished ability.
If Warner himself had done nothing else, the "Life of Washington Irving" would have made his literary gift evident, and what was of still larger value, his power of understanding the character of Irving and differentiating it in behalf of the long future. He says: "Washington Irving's writings induce to reflection, to quiet musing, to tenderness for traditions; they amuse, they entertain, they call a check to the feverishness of common life; but they are rarely stimulative or suggestive … . It is very fortunate that a writer who can reach the great public and entertain it can also elevate and refine its tastes, set before it high ideas, instruct it agreeably, and all this in a style that belongs to the best literature … . The service that he rendered to American letters no critic disputes; nor is there any question of our national indebtedness to him for investing a crude and new land with the enduring charms of romance and tradition. In this respect our obligation to him is that of Scotland to Scott and Burns, and it is an obligation due only, in all history, to here and there a fortunate creator to whose genius opportunity is kind. 'The Knickerbocker Legend' and the romance with which Irving has invested the Hudson are a priceless legacy, and this would remain an imperishable possession in popular tradition if the literature creating it were destroyed … . This creation is sufficient to secure for him an immortality, a length of earthly remembrance that all the rest of his writings together might not give … . Irving regarded life not from the philanthropic, the economic, the political, the philosophic, the metaphysic, the scientific, or the theologic, but purely from the literary point of view. He belongs to that small class of which Johnson and Goldsmith are perhaps as good types as any, and to which America has added very few. The literary point of view is taken by few in any generation; it may seem to the world of very little consequence in the pressure of all the complex interests of life, and it may even seem trivial amid the tremendous energies applied to immediate affairs; but it is the point of view that endures; if its creations do not mould human life, like the Roman law, they remain to charm and civilise, like the poems of Horace. You must not ask more of them than that. This attitude toward life is defensible on the highest grounds … . It is not a question whether the work of the literary man is higher than that of the reformer or the statesman; it is a distinct work and is justified by the result, even when the work is that of a humourist only. We recognize this in the case of the poet. Although Goethe has been reproached for his lack of sympathy with the liberalising movement of his day (as if his novels were quieting influences), it is felt by this generation that the author of 'Faust' needs no apology that he did not spend his energies in the effervescing politics of the German states … . I cannot bring myself to exclude Irving's moral quality, from a literary estimate. There is something that made Scott and Irving personally loved by the millions of their readers, who had only the dimmest ideas of their personality. This was some quality perceived in what they wrote. Each one can define it for himself; there it is, and I do not see why it is not as integral a part of the authors - an element in the estimate of their future position - as what we term their intellect, their knowledge, their skill, or their art. However you rate it, you cannot account for Irving's influence in the world without it. In his tender tribute to Irving, the great-hearted Thackeray, who saw as closely as anybody the place of mere literary art in the sum total of life, quoted the dying words of Scott to Lockhart, 'Be a good man, my dear.' We know well enough that the great author of 'The Newcomes' and the great author of 'The Heart of Midlothian' recognised the abiding value in literature of integrity, sincerity, purity, charity, faith. These are beneficences, and Irving's literature, walk around it, and measure it by whatever critical instruments you will, is a beneficent literature.
"The author loved good women and little children and a pure life; he had faith in his fellow-man, a kindly sympathy with the lowest, without any subservience to the highest; he retained a belief in the possibility of chivalrous actions, and did not care to envelop them in a cynical suspicion; he was an author still capable of an enthusiasm. His books are wholesome, full of sweetness and charm, of humour without any sting, amusement without any stain; and their more solid qualities are marred by neither pedantry nor pretension."
Much of this also may be truthfully said of Charles Dudley Warner. His gifts never carried him so far as to rank him among these writers of whom he was speaking in original conception, but he never wavered in his idea of the value of the literary point of view to one who was eminently possessed of the writer's gift. He was content for himself in this idea of achievement, and he advanced steadily year by year.
December, 1881, he wrote Howells from Munich: "One item in the American Register to-day has given us great pain and anxiety, it is to the effect that you are very ill with a nervous disease brought on by overwork. It comes to us when we are in a little trouble, and has not made our day any brighter. My second thought, after sympathy for you in your suffering, was that the novel which was to be done by January 1st is not yet finished, and that will add to your worry and depression of spirits. It seems a pity now that you did not quit work last summer and come over here to finish your story. I wish you were here now, for this part of Europe is certainly good for nervous complaints; indeed any part of Europe is more soothing than America, and I hope you will carry out your plan of coming as soon as possible. Perhaps it will be a little relief to you to know that other people have trials also, and that little in this world goes as smoothly as we plan it. Else I should be writing you now from sunny Palermo, and not from cloudy Munich, where we are having a warmish, rainy December, and no snow yet. I came abroad to escape our winter and find some sunny retreat where Mrs. Warner and I could take it easy and perhaps write a little. The doctor thought Spain would not suit for the winter, so I planned for south of France, Italy, and Sicily. We went to Avignon, Nîmes, and Montpellier. We were a month in lovely Provence and Languedoc, with roses galore; the climate not too warm, and suited my throat exactly. We have here the best music in the world, very good friends, and a good doctor. We have got a place in an excellent German family. I was quite in the spirit of writing in Montpellier, and wrote for the Council and Christian Union - some romantic Provençal stuff. I want to do some work this winter if I can find a genial place, but I cannot unless my anxiety about Mrs. Warner is removed. She sends her love to you both, and you know I do … . There is not much good in the world except friends."
He wrote again from Sicily in April, 1882: "I was three weeks in Capri, some time at Amalfi, and now over a month in Sicily. Heaven is pretty near the hill of Taormina, with great Etna dominating the scene. You never saw anything so enchanting. We have been nearly a week at this old, desolate, interesting Syracuse. This morning we punted up the swift Anapo, and pulled up the papyrus, on which the Greeks wrote their immortal remarks about goats and pretty shepherdesses. Theocritus created the atmosphere of all this coast for me. I sailed to-day on the pool and looked thirty feet into its clear waters, into which Cyane was changed when she opposed the transfer of Proserpine to Hades by Pluto - it was down this hole that he went to his own place with the enchanting girl. But I am not going to tell you about the enchantments of Syracuse. You must come here … . I just have the very sad news of dear Longfellow's death; since I saw him last summer I have felt that it might occur at any time, but the loss of a man so noble is none the less great … . "
["]The Life of Washington Irving["] had been followed by the same flow of literary work as usual, but the trend of Warner's mind was becoming more and more, not social, that could scarcely be possible, but in modern phrase, sociological. For a while he was kept in the same traces where work multiplied continually. "The Life of Captain John Smith sometime Governor of Virginia and Admiral of New England: a Study of his life and writings," came first. The chief contribution to Warner's biography in this book is to be gathered from the preface, where he gives some idea of the unexpected labour necessary to accomplish it. "When I consented," he says, "to prepare this volume … . I did not anticipate the seriousness of the task … . If the life of Smith was to be written, an effort should be made to state the truth and to disentangle the career of the adventurer from the fables and misrepresentations that have clustered about it … . If he was always and uniformly untrustworthy it would be less perplexing to follow him, but his liability to tell the truth when vanity or prejudice does not interfere is annoying to the careful student."
Another book of European travel, called "A Roundabout Journey," was published in 1883. He leaves Paris as we all like to do when we must leave it at all, in a November fog. "At night the door of the car opened at Dijon. The four simple words then spoken by the ticket-taker, 'Billets s'il vous plait,' so deluged the apartment with garlic that we had to open all the windows. If he had added another solid word, I think we should have been compelled to jump out of the car." Mr. Warner found Avignon as ever delightful. "We were come," he says, "to a land where statues can sit out of doors with comfort in winter." He goes to the extraordinary old city of Aigues-Mortes on the southern coast and on, true to his "Roundabout Journey," through Orvieto and other old Italian cities to Sicily, really resting in exquisite Taormina and writing of it as no one else has done except George Woodberry in his unrivalled monograph, or possibly some of the great French authors. In recommending the climate of Syracuse his guide referred to an American lady who recovered her health there. "She bought a cow," he remarked, "got well in a few weeks, went back to America, and married a species of poet." Warner thinks that "a milk diet and union with a species of poet is better than being converted into a fountain."
He wrote again to Mr. Howells, July, 1883, from Hartford: " … . The Tribune represents you as moving about the shady sides of Boston streets, dodging the sun and public honour. If you are where the Tribune pretends you are, do for heaven's sake tell me how you are and how the rest of the family thrive. I would welcome you back with all my heart if I felt sure you were here. For I have a great desire to see you. Just now I am tied here. Hawley, Clark, and Hubbard of our court are in Europe. We are likely to be kept here till the middle of September. But I am very well, free from malaria, and hard at work … . I made a Virginian trip in June." Again in December he writes: "God bless you and everybody in your house this Christmas time … . I am to be in New York for two or three weeks. I've got to make some lectures for Princeton and Cornell."
Lectures from him were now in constant demand. He was asked to take part in the Social Science Congress, at the Ashfield Dinner and other annual and patriotic meetings. He always spoke as he wrote, apparently with extraordinary ease, until others were led to forget that such expenditure of nervous energy cannot be given by any human being without a corresponding sense of loss. He found at last that continued speaking increased a delicacy of the throat which gradually became chronic, and he was thus forced to pass a part of every winter in a milder climate than that of New England. The meetings of the Social Science Congress interested him deeply. The reports on the condition of prisons and criminals read at these meetings especially arrested his attention. His mind and heart were finally given to the subject of the criminal with an intensity which never slackened. For fifteen years until his death he lost no opportunity, and sought to make many an occasion, to speak and write upon this subject.
["]Will you come and lecture for us this winter," said a friend to him who lived in one of our cultivated and intelligent New England cities. "Yes," said Warner, "I will go if you will let me speak upon prisons. I haven't the time to talk upon any other subject." His audiences wished to hear him lecture upon literature; they wanted his wit and humour to play over the books he knew so well and could speak of with an instructed mind; but he felt himself called now in another direction. He visited many prisons and passed six weeks once with Mr. Brockway at Elmira Reformatory, going there for unexpected visits and consultations with his friend, the superintendent, as he found the time. Nevertheless, in the summer of 1885 he visited the chief watering places of America and wrote a description of them, weaving an interesting story called "Their Pilgrimage" from his experiences. Beginning early in the season at Fortress Monroe, the autumn finds him at the White Mountains and Lenox. He makes notes at Cape May, Atlantic City, the Catskills, Newport, and other vacations resorts. It is a charming but keen report by a trained observer of our people at their summer amusements and dissipations. "In the car for Niagara," he wrote, "was an Englishman of the receptive, guileless, thin type, inquisitive and overflowing with approval of everything American, a type which has now become one of the common features of travel in this country … . He was accompanied by his wife, a stout resolute matron in heavy boots, a sensible stuff gown, with a lot of cotton lace fudged about her neck, and a broad-brimmed hat with a vegetable garden on top. The little man was always in pursuit of information, in his guide-book or from his fellow-passengers, and whenever he obtained any he invariably repeated it to his wife, who said, 'Fancy!' and 'Now really!' in a rising inflection that expressed surprise and expectation. The conceited American, who commonly draws himself into a shell when he travels, and affects indifference, seems to be losing all natural curiosity, receptivity, and the power of observation, is pretty certain to undervalue the intelligence of this class of English travellers, and get amusement out of their peculiarities instead of learning from them how to make every day of life interesting. Even King, who, besides his national crust of exclusiveness, was to-day wrapped in the gloom of Irene's letter, was gradually drawn to these simple, unpretending people. He took for granted their ignorance of America - ignorance of America being one of the branches taught in the English schools - and he soon discovered that they were citizens of the world. They not only knew the Continent very well, but they had spent a winter in Egypt, lived a year in India and seen something of China and much of Japan. Although they had been scarcely a fortnight in the United States, King doubted if there were ten women in the State of New York, not professional teachers, who knew as much of the flora of the country as this plain-featured, rich-voiced woman. They called King's attention to a great many features of the landscape he had never noticed before, and asked him a great many questions about farming, stock, and wages that he could not answer. It appeared that Mr. Stanley Stubbs, Stoke-Cruden - for that was the name and address of the present discoverers of America - had a herd of short-horns, and that Mrs. Stubbs was even more familiar with the herd-book than her husband. But before the fact had enabled King to settle the question of his new acquaintance satisfactorily to himself, Mrs. Stubbs upset his estimate by quoting Tennyson. 'Your English poet is very much read here,' King said, by way of being agreeable. 'So we have heard,' replied Mrs. Stubbs. 'Mr. Stubbs reads Tennyson beautifully. He has thought of giving some readings while we are here. We have been told that the Americans are very fond of readings.'
"'Yes,' said King, 'they are devoted to them, especially readings by Englishmen in their native tongue. There is a great rage now for everything English; at Newport hardly anything else is spoken.'
"Mrs. Stubbs looked for a moment as if this might be an American joke; but there was no smile upon King's face, and she only said: 'Fancy! You must make a note of Newport, dear. That is one of the places we must see. Of course, Mr. Stubbs has never read in public, you know. But I suppose that would make no difference, the Americans are so kind and so appreciative.'
"'Not the least difference,' replied King. 'They are used to it.'
"'It is a wonderful country,' said Mr. Stubbs."
We cannot give further quotations from this pretty story. This bit will give an idea of the light wit and keen observation with which it is filled, making it a book for summer reading of a pattern seldom indeed to be found. It has the writer's charming characteristics, with passages here and there which Thackeray and again Irving would not be sorry to call their own.
The winter of 1885, in spite of Warner's various literary engagements, found him steadily at work in his heart upon the prison interests. In April he printed a paper called "A Study of Prison Management," from which, being lost to sight at present in the pages of an old number of The North American Review, we must print extracts if we faithfully represent the occupations of Warner's mind and life:
"Our failure," he says, "in the handling of criminals with reference to their reformation, and the proportionate security of society and decrease of taxation, is due largely to the fact that we have considered the problem as physical, and not psychological. The effort has been to improve prisons and the physical condition and environment of prisoners. This effort has been directed by sentiment, rather than upon principles of economy and a study of human nature. It has been assumed that if convicts were treated with more kindness, if they were lodged in prisons well warmed and well ventilated, light and airy, in cells more roomy and comfortable; if they had better food and more privileges (graduated on good deportment), they would be more likely to reform and to lead honest lives after their discharge.
"This movement was dictated by philanthropic motives, and I am far from saying that it is all wrong. But it has not produced the results that were expected; and it seems to me that the revolt in the public mind against what is called the 'coddling' system is justified by facts and results. The modern model prison is a costly and architecturally imposing structure; it is safer to lodge in and freer from odours than most hotels; its cells are well warmed, lighted with gas, and comfortable; it has a better dietary than most of its inmates are accustomed to; it has bath-rooms, a library, often large and well selected; an admirably arranged hospital; a cheerful chapel, garnished with frescoes and improving texts; there are Sunday services and Sunday-schools; there is a chaplain who visits the prisoners to distribute books and tracts, and converse on religious topics; there are lectures and readings and occasional musical concerts by the best talent; sometimes holidays are given; there are extra dinners on Thanksgiving day, Christmas day, and the Fourth of July, when the delicacies of the season stimulate the holiday and patriotic sentiments; and in most State prisons a man may earn a considerable abatement of his sentence by good behaviour … .
"The reform in prison construction and management was very much needed, and I am not anxious now to express an opinion whether or not it has gone too far. But it must be noted that along with this movement has grown up a sickly sentimentality about criminals which has gone altogether too far, and which, under the guise of 'humanity' and philanthropy, confounds all moral distinctions. The mawkish sympathy of good and soft-hearted women with the most degraded and persistent criminals of the male sex is one of the signs of an unhealthy public sentiment. A self-respecting murderer is obliged to write upon his cards 'no flowers.' I think it will not be denied that our civilisation, which has considerably raised the average of human life, tends to foster and increase the number of weaklings, incompetents, and criminally inclined. Unsystematic charity increases pauperism, and unphilosophical leniency toward the criminal classes increases that class.
"It seems to me that we have either gone too far, or we have not gone far enough. If our treatment of the incompetent and vicious is to keep pace with our general civilisation, we must resort to more radical measures. The plan of systematised charity, which cultivates independence instead of dependence, and the increased attention given to the very young children who by their situation and inheritance are criminally inclined, are steps in the right direction. Probably it will be more and more evident that it is the best economy for the State to spend money liberally on those who are liable to become dependents and criminals. If the State were to show as much energy in this direction as it does in police supervision and the capture and conviction of criminals, it is certain that a marked improvement would be felt in society within a generation … .
"My proposition is that there is very little difference between our worst State prisons and our best in the effect produced upon convicts as to reformation or a reduction of the criminal class. The State prison at Wethersfield, Conn., is one of the old type. It is an old and ramshackle establishment, patched up from time to time, and altogether a gloomy and depressing place. It is, however, well managed; it is made to pay about its running expenses; and many of the modern alleviations of prison life are applied there - a library, occasional entertainments, a diminution of time of sentence for good conduct, and so on, whatever such a place is capable of in the way of comfort consistent with the system. But the inmates are the most discouraging feature of the exhibition. They are in appearance depressed, degraded, down-looking, physically sluggish, mentally and morally tending to more and more degradation. There is no hope or suggestion of improvement in them. The discipline is good, and the men earn time by good conduct, but there are no evidences that the alleviations (which take from the former terrors of prison life) are working the least moral change. It is a most depressing and dispiriting sight.
"Would any change for the better be wrought if the environment were more cheerful? The State prison at Cranston, R. I., is a new, handsome, granite building, with the modern improvements. Perfectly lighted and ventilated, with roomy cells, a common mess room, an admirable hospital, a more than usually varied dietary, with a library, and all the privileges that humanity can suggest as consistent with discipline and security, it as little gloomy and depressing as a State prison well can be. Having occasion recently to look into this matter officially, I confess that I expected to find at Cranston a very different state of affairs as to the convicts from that existing at Wethersfield. The improved physical conditions ought to show some moral and physical uplift in the men. I was totally disappointed. Here were the same hang-dog, depressed, hopeless, heavy lot of convicts. The two prisons might change inmates, and no visitor would know the difference. You might expect just as little reformation in one as in the other. We are not considering now any question of sentiment or humanity; and the conclusion was forced upon me that, so far as the real interests of society are concerned, nothing is gained by converting prisons into comfortable hotels.
"Since we have abolished punishments, and are not ready to take any radical steps for reformation, it would be better to make prison life so hard that detention would be a punishment in itself. The men should earn their living at hard labour, and be made to feel the weight of their transgressions. If professional and confirmed criminals, men who declare by undergoing second conviction for a felony that they have made preying upon society their business, who belong, in short, to a pretty well-defined criminal class, cannot be removed altogether from troubling this world, they ought to be locked up permanently and made to earn their living. They are of no sort of use in the world, and are an expense and a danger to society. The rosewater treatment has no effect on this class, as a rule. Holidays, occasional fine dinners, concerts, lectures, flowers - we are going ridiculously far in this direction, unless we add a radical something to this sort of treatment that will touch the life of the man, and tend to change his nature and inclination … .
"Can anything better be done with men convicted of State-prison offences? It is with the hope of throwing some light on this question that I wish to give a brief and informal account of what is going on in the Reformatory of Elmira, N. Y., under the superintendency of Mr. Z. R. Brockway. Here is an experiment in the personal treatment of convicts, unique, so far as I know, in the world; and I suppose it is an open question whether anybody except Mr. Brockway could carry it on. It is well to say, by way of preliminary, that the theory of indeterminate sentences, held by Mr. Brockway and other prison reformers, has been by many regarded as impracticable of operation, for want of a tribunal to say when man is sufficiently reformed for his sentence to terminate. For the rôle of hypocrisy is one of the easiest for a rogue to play.
"The Elmira Reformatory, which cost more than it should (being built in New York), is a somewhat pretentious building, situated on a commanding eminence. It need not be particularly described, further than to say that in point of arrangement, light, air, roominess, ventilation, etc., it conforms to modern notions … . What distinguishes it, however, is that it is provided with school-rooms sufficient for the accommodation of all its inmates. And it is, as we shall see, a great educational establishment, the entrance to which is through the door of crime. The keynote of it is compulsory education. The qualifications for admission to it are that the man convicted of a State-prison offence shall be between the ages of sixteen and thirty, and that he has not been in State prison before. In his discretion any judge in the State many send a convict of this description to Elmira. He is sentenced to the Reformatory subject to the rules of that institution, not for a definite term; but he cannot be detained there longer than the maximum for which he might have been sentenced under the law. For instance, if for burglary he might have been sentenced to State prison for ten years, he may be held at Elmira for ten years; but he may, in the discretion of the board of managers, who are appointed by the Governor, be discharged in one year. The institution is practically managed by the superintendent. The discharges are made only by the board, who consider the man's record in the prison, and the probabilities, from all the evidence concerning him, that he will behave if set at liberty. He must have a perfect record before the board consider his case; and, besides this, the board must have confidence in his will and ability to live up to it.
* * * * *
"The process of his release is this: If he is reported perfect in three things - labour, school, and conduct - for each of which three marks are required each month, making nine in all, for six months, he is advanced to the first grade. If he remains perfect in the first grade for six months more, gaining nine good marks each month, he may then, at the discretion of the managers, be sent out on his parole. But he is not released on parole until a place is found for him in which he can get employment and earn his living. If his friends cannot find a place for him, or he will not be received back into his former employment, if he had any, the institution places him by means of correspondence. On parole he must report his conduct and condition every month to the superintendent, and this report must be indorsed by some one of known character. If the paroled continues to behave himself for six months, he receives his final discharge; if he backslides, he is rearrested, brought back, and must begin over again … .
"It will be seen from this slight sketch that it is not an easy matter to get out of the Elmira Reformatory before the expiration of the maximum sentence. Three things are required - perfect conduct, perfect diligence, and willingness in labour - with as good progress in school as the capacity of the man admits … . The most striking thing about the institution is the cultivation of individual responsibility; a man's progress depends upon himself. The education is strictly compulsory. Such a motive was never before given men to study, for release depends upon diligence and understanding of the matter in hand … .
"Never was compulsory education so completely applied. But it must be confessed, in this case, that the class had got thoroughly interested in the subject. The expression of their faces was that of aroused intelligence. Nothing seemed lost on the majority of them; the finest points made by Socrates, his searching moral distinctions, his humour, you could see were taken instantly, by the expressions of their faces. The discussions and the essays in this class show a most remarkable grasp, subtlety, penetration, and power of drawing fine moral distinctions; and the vigour and fitness of the language in which they are couched are not the least notable part of the display. The previous Sunday there had been a lively discussion of the question, 'Is Honesty the best Policy?' The study of the morality of Socrates led the class naturally, and by their request, to a study of the morality of Jesus and the New Testament, though not at all as a religious inquiry; and thus a result was reached in moral investigation that a clergyman, beginning at the other end, probably never could have brought this mixed and abnormal class to attempt willingly. For these men are not only criminals, warped and prejudiced against any religious teachings, but they are of all sects by inheritance, perhaps half the number Catholics, and fifty of them Hebrews. Among men that have abandoned all practice of religion it would be perfectly easy to stir up a bitter theological feeling. The lecture on the second Sunday I was present was introductory on the development of religions, preparatory to such a study of the New Testament morality as had been given to that of Socrates. Before I quit this Sunday audience, I ought to say that, when the six hundred are assembled it is one of the most alert and quickly responsive I have ever seen … . "
Warner's persuasion that reform in methods for dealing with the criminal cannot long be delayed saved him from restless effort. He did what he could. His pen was heated with fresh fire, his heart was filled with new longing. He grasped with fervour the first genuine fundamental effort the world has seen in the right direction; - that made on the ground of indeterminate sentence. Warner learned at the Social Science Congress that Mr. Brockway, in hope of being granted indeterminate sentence for Elmira, was beginning experiments there with rather more men than he believed well for the experiments but with a promise, understood, of limiting the number to six hundred. This promise was not kept, nor was absolutely indeterminate sentence granted, but in face of all difficulties the work proceeded as we have seen. He saw cabals growing against the reformer; he watched the effect of general ignorance played upon by the enemies of reform, and he lived to see Mr. Brockway overthrown by the politicians of New York.
Yet who shall say that the experiment has failed? In the perspective afforded by these very few years we see that failure is impossible. New men, younger men, will offer themselves, and women, too, though late, will begin to understand what reform means in behalf of the criminal.
In the year 1886 Warner renewed his work by printing two popular papers upon the subject in different magazines. The first appeared in the Arena in January. This paper had been delivered previously as an address before the Social Science Congress and may be found in their archives. The second appeared in Harper's Monthly Magazine in February of that year, the editor, Mr. Alden, having always shown himself sympathetic with true advance in humanitarian directions. Warner wrote:
"Is there any way, theoretically, that promises to change the confirmed criminal? Is there any evidence that this theoretical way will work practically? Yes. I firmly believe there is a way, and there is an example. That remedy, that way, is education, but education under proper conditions. And by education I do not mean the teaching of knowledges, the imparting of information, learning from books or any other source. I mean education in the original signification of the word; that is, discipline, the development of unknown, unused powers, the restoration of lost powers - in short, a training and bringing out of all the powers and faculties that go to make up a man, sound in mind, in morals, in body.
"If you propose to reform a criminal, improved physical conditions are not enough. For such a man, whose moral nature is as unstable as water, no temporary or sentimental religious excitement will avail to put his feet on a rock where he can stand against temptation. A man coarse in fibre, weak in will, an easy prey to vice, can be excited, can be melted into tears, will fall into a mush of repentance, but the mood will probably only be a passing sentiment … .
"Let us see how discipline, applied to the body, to the mind, and to the moral sense ought to work upon the man - how, in fact, it has worked in one institution with which we are familiar. I do not refer to this institution for the sake of saying anything of the tact and skill of its manager, but to call your attention to the philosophic basis upon which his effort rests. For it is very important that the fact should be recognised that a principle is involved in the attempt at the Elmira Reformatory which is entirely independent of the adaptability of its manager to deal with men. Of course much depends upon the man in any system or institution. In teaching deaf-mutes there is a great difference in the power of men to awaken inert faculties. We may have a good system of municipal government the working of which may be defeated by a bad or incompetent mayor, or we may have a defective system which may yield fair results with a competent, honest executive; but it remains true that a good system will eventually give the best results … .
"In order to reform any person addicted to evil living, an adequate motive must be offered. Under the method described the powerful motive is the desire of regaining liberty. This would seem enough, but it is not always sufficient to arouse ambition in a sluggish nature, especially when the period of incarceration is fixed and is short. This motive, then, has to be supplemented by others. A way must be found to arouse the sluggish body, and interest the dormant mind. It is sometimes long before this way can be discovered. These ruined natures have often very little that can be appealed to successfully. But I believe there is in most men and women, however degraded, the seed of a better life. The first step will probably be the awakening of an interest in something outside themselves; not a purpose of change, but simply an interest. It may be a desire to learn the alphabet, or an awakened taste for reading, or a little inclination to know something. It may be a pride in personal appearance, or wish to get commendation for good behaviour, or a dawning sense of the agreeableness of order, neatness, cleanliness. Or it may be some pleasure in a discovered power to do well a piece of work. This interest, once aroused, can be stimulated by various incitements, slight rewards of promotion, the fear of social degradation; and this path of doing well will become powerfully attractive when it is seen to be the path, and the only one, to liberty. But this interest in any form, with even the prize of liberation, cannot be depended on to last. The will of the criminal is weak and vacillating. He cannot be depended on, he cannot depend upon himself, for continuance. He may fail and fall again and again. The only remedy in his case - and it is the common case - is to keep him at it, keep him trying, until a habit is formed, until his will is strengthened, until, in fact, it is mentally and physically just as easy for him to live a normal, healthful life as it was to live a disorderly life … .
"The important thing, as necessary in this system to getting out of confinement as to becoming a man, is the formation of habit. And here is where the notion of an indeterminate sentence comes in as the only condition of forming a fixed habit.
"An indeterminate sentence is the sentence of a convict to confinement until in the judgment of some tribunal he is fit to go out into society again, until it is evident that he is likely to be law-abiding. If a person is determined upon a criminal life, the best thing that can be done for him and for society is to confine him where he can do no mischief, and where his labour will pay for his keeping, so that he many not be an expense to society nor a terror to it. And, logically, he should be confined until there is good reason to believe that he will be a self-supporting, law-abiding member of the community. Now the difficulty heretofore has been to determine when a person might safely be released on an indeterminate sentence. Under the present prison system, if release depended simply on good behaviour, on external observance of rules, most criminals are shrewd enough to behave admirably, and to even offer evidence of Christian conversion, in order to get release. Where is there a tribunal that could pass upon his character? The Elmira system compels a person literally to work out his own salvation. It will take some men a longer and some men a shorter time to do it, that is, to acquire such a habit that for a given period they can stand perfect in study, in work, in conduct. Under our present rule of determinate sentences there are many incorrigible cases. Probably there are some natures incapable of being changed to anything better. Let such stay where they can pay for their living and not injure society. But it is difficult to say of any man that he cannot be reached and touched by discipline, physical, mental, and moral, for a long time and continuous; that it is impossible to drill him, in years of effort, into a habit of decent living and a liking for an orderly life. It is impossible, psychologically and physiologically, for a person to obey rigid rules of order and decency, to be drilled in mental exercises, to be subject to supervision for intelligent and attentive labour, for a considerable length of time, and not form new habits, not be changed sensibly and probably radically. It may be in one year, it may be in ten years, but ultimately habits will be formed, and the man cannot, with a greater or less effort, be what he was before he was subjected to this process … . "
Warner had an excellent example in Dickens to encourage him to believe that the pen has power even in these unwonted paths. Dickens's work for Newgate prison has never been questioned, and at that time "interest was shown in the prisoner," Dickens says, "but no sympathy." The world has progressed; yet, considering the need, it moves slowly. May it not be hoped that all who loved Charles Dudley Warner and who cared for his life and work in any degree will be quickened to forward this interest of his - that it may become theirs, since it is for humanity as well as for his memory. We are reminded in this of the unforgettable worlds of Fénelon where he speaks of personal grief and says: "Il faut passer à l'humanité cet attendrissement sur soi."
During the winter of 1877 Warner had taken his first brief glimpse of Mexico, but it was not until after later visits in 1888 that he published a book containing much that was new upon a country which possessed great fascination for him. He began also to make notes on California, although his book "Our Italy" was not fully written until later. Of Mexico he was never tired and was always ready after this first glimpse to start off again when he could find an agreeable companion, if only for a month or two. The colour, the climate, the people, all delighted him, and the constant surprises. Writing there from a remote Indian village, Zinzunzan, he says: "To these poor savages, Philip II. made a gift that any monarch or any city might envy." Here in a decaying church of ancient splendor is to be found The Entombment, by Titian. "It seems incredible," he continues, "that a work of this value should be comparatively unknown, and that it should be found in a remote Indian village in Mexico. But the evidence that it is by Titian is strong … . We could not but be profoundly impressed."
In 1888 Warner seems to have published the results of several brief journeys in foregoing years in a book called "On Horseback." Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee were all delightfully reviewed. "If the travellers had known," he says, "the capacities and resources of the country they would not have started without a supply train, or the establishment of bases of provisions in advance." They did not have a very easy time, these travellers on a horseback tour, but ease was not what they started for, so they kept on. Speaking of one town where the jail was shut up, Warner says: "It is not much use to try to run a jail without liquor."
Mr. Alden, of Harper's Magazine, proposed to Mr. Warner in 1885 that he should make an extended journey South and West and report upon the condition of the States which were less generally known and less closely affiliated than was desirable with the North and East. The book which was the result of observations made upon this tour contains a prefatory note to his friend the editor, in which he says: "The object was not to present a comprehensive account of the country south and west, but to note certain representative developments, tendencies, and dispositions, the communication of which would lead to a better understanding between different sections. The strongest impression produced upon the writer in making these studies was that the prosperous life of the Union depends upon the life and dignity of the individual States."
Warner fell in love with New Orleans at first sight. Among his friends there he met a lady who said (only what several others said in substance), "We are going to get more out of this war than you at the North, because we suffered more." "South and West" is a book of permanent value to patriotic Americans, and although changes have gone forward steadily since the day it was written its value and interest have scarcely lessened. It is a great temptation to quote from it; indeed it seems unfair not to represent the many months of Warner's life which were absorbed in the labour of observing and traveling and recording, in order to make this book, but space is lacking. Bound in the same volume is a valuable study of Canada. The writer heard him say some years after this book ("South and West") was published that he always felt sorry that he had included Canada. That was a study by itself and overweighted the book, at the same time being lost there. It stands, wherever it is found, as a valuable piece of work, and if Warner had lived would have shown him possessed of knowledge such as a real statesman should possess, knowledge which showed him ready for any public position.
We find a letter to his old friend Wirt Dexter, written from New York, March, 1889, saying: "I am delighted that you are able to sit up and take a little gruel, and be healthfully indignant over the low plane on which Harrison has started. His idea seems to be to reward all the newspapers and army boys who helped nominate and elect him. I wonder if there are no gentlemen in this country who could represent us abroad, or whether a gentleman could not represent us.
"I have been scratching away on my serial, which they are now calling a novel, and have got to a burning point where I want to look about a little. So I am going down to Washington to-morrow for a couple of weeks. I go for some local colour, but I shall steer clear of the persons in office and those who want to be in. I cannot understand the policy of the Republican party. It if really wants a united Union, why don't it act as if the South were in the Union. Not a Southern man yet appointed anywhere. And what a good Attorney-General John Mason Brown would have made. You haven't got another Fuller, have you, to go in Justice ----'s place?"
The renewal of his early friendship with Wirt Dexter happened on his first visit to Chicago after an interval of twenty years or more. Each of them had been absorbed in their successful work and they had never met; and Warner seized his earliest opportunity to go to Mr. Dexter's house. The great lawyer was sitting on his piazza when Warner came up the steps and rang the bell; but both had changed and they did not recognise each other. Mrs. Dexter received her guest warmly and sent for her husband. When he entered the room Warner had the advantage, and going quietly up and taking him by the hand said (remembering their old transactions in household goods): "Wirt, did you ever pay me for that furniture?" A fine burst of laughter followed this unexpected sally, and the two friends rejoiced to find each other really unchanged.
Later he wrote to Mr. Dexter from Munich, September, 1891:
"My dear, dear friend: I received your note when I was in Marienbad, and should at once have replied, but I got there with an attack of rheumatism in my right arm, which has incapacitated me from writing. I am now, after five weeks, much better and speedily on the way to be all right, but my head is still too uncertain for anything but a short note. We have just been two weeks in Méran, in Tyrol, about the loveliest place the Lord ever made, and full of grapes and figs … . We expect to be at home before December 1. I am not sorry to go, though I know I shall want at once to flee from the winter of New England … . The saddest thing of all the things is Lowell's death. Boston is fast ceasing to be Boston.
"Ever affectionately yours."
It was close upon the beginning of the last decade of Warner's life, 1890, that he conceived the idea of writing a novel, the first hint of which we find in his letter to Wirt Dexter. He was then sixty years old and had occupied himself in a different field of letters up to that time; nevertheless he undertook, with a boyish sense of excitement for a "new thing," a trilogy of novels called, respectively, "A Little Journey in the World," "The Golden House," and "That Fortune." They are all good and interesting stories; "first-rate reading"; though the first is by an essayist who has fallen in love with a few characters and makes them talk out subjects because the subjects interest him. "The Golden House" is, however, a delightful story without let or hindrance. Any one seeking for an interesting novel may well read that and its sequel, "That Fortune." We need not say that these three novels absorbed the larger part of his interest and attention during the years he held them in hand. It was 1899 before the last, "That Fortune," was published.
Among the few letters we find of this period is one written to Manchester-by-Sea, September, 1893, from Hartford … . "On my way down I read Miss Jewett's last story in the Century. When I came home I read it aloud amid laughter and tears and with a choking voice now and then. How pathetic is happiness! This is a true New England picture … . This is a higher truth about it. 'The dear sweet thing!' they said, as I read on, and found those swift sure touches of nature; meaning the dear sweet writer. The story, which is not a story either, has a wonderful quality. Give my warmest love and fealty to Miss Jewett.
"What a rare visit it was to your high perch, with ----- and Miss Cochrane and the ever memorable lunch with Dr. Holmes and Mr. Howells. It almost makes me long to be eighty-four. Do you suppose we shall be like that, that wit will be born so, and memory so survive? It was all delightful, the three days there and the wonderful country and the charming people, and I never again shall climb that same hill with you and Miss Fearn. Such things are not repeated.
"Lady Edward Fitzmaurice did not come yesterday, but is expected this afternoon, any moment now. So I must go down and put on my noble manners if I can find them.
Meanwhile several small books were published made up of papers previously printed in Harper's Magazine. In 1884 he had associated himself with that magazine, first as editor of the Drawer and later of the Study, and kept up the connection until 1898, two years before his death. Between the years 1896 and 1898, with the assistance of his brother, Mr. George Warner, he edited the large volumes of the compendium called "The World's Best Literature," writing some of the prefaces and introductions, which showed his own matured literary tastes and judgments. This collection really represents his own idea of the leaders in English letters, which is far from being the case with every collection issued under the ægis of a distinguished name. In 1899 also he had published a book with an historical flavour, called "The People for Whom Shakespeare Wrote," and this book, with the exception of a collection of essays, "The Relation of Literature to Life," closed the long series of his labours.
"The Relation of Literature to Life" carries a peculiar interest apart from style and thought when looked at from our present standpoint, that of the individual and the purpose of his life. The autumn is near, but with no touch of decadence, only ripeness and calm. The close relation of all "genuine enduring literature" to human life is here pointed out with the persuasion of a man who has lived by the knowledge of an almost unacknowledged truth and is now rehearsing it in plain speech. "The most remunerative method of studying a literature," he says, "is to study the people for whom it was produced," and illustrations of this are drawn by him in a course of lectures previously delivered from the Greek, French, and English literatures. "English readers can test this," he writes, "by taking up their Shakespeare after a thorough investigation of the customs, manners, and popular life of the Elizabethan period."
Where else can we turn to find a man whose life was frankly devoted to letters, always defending his guild and sheltering the race of literary men behind so brave a shield? Other men of letters have been proud of their profession and content with the high place which some of them, presuming for a moment they are men of genius, have attained. But genius is not to be classified. Charles Warner was speaking of the necessity of literature and of the lofty eminence of the profession apart from individuals. He says: "If the world in which you live happens to be the world of books, if your pursuit is to know what has been done and said in the world, to the end that your own conception of the value of life may be enlarged, and that better things may be done and said hereafter, this world and this pursuit assume supreme importance in your mind. But you can in a moment place yourself in relations - you have not to go far, perhaps only to speak to your next neighbour - where the very existence of your world is scarcely recognized … . You will speedily be aware how completely apart from human life literature is held to be, how few people regard it seriously, as a necessary element in life." He then compares the great labours of men of affairs, the building of towns and manufactures in incredibly short spaces of time upon lands where forests grew a few months earlier and speaks of the marvellous exhibition of energy which has wrought such results. He inquires: "Why encounter these difficulties? The men are not consciously philanthropists …. They enjoy no doubt the feeling of leadership, but they embark in their enterprise in order that they may have the position and luxury that increased wealth will bring … . The observation of this phase of modern life is not in the least for purposes of satire or of reform … . We are inquiring how fully this conception of life is divorced from the desire to learn what has been done and said to the end that better things may be done and said hereafter, in order that we may understand the popular conception of the insignificant value of literature in human affairs." Warner then quotes what Plato says upon this subject in the Laws, where the Athenian stranger remarks that one cause of decay of defence in a state is the love of wealth, which wholly absorbs men and never for a moment allows them to think of anything but their private possessions … . The conclusion of Plato is that we ought not to pursue any occupation to the neglect of that for which riches exist. "I mean," he says, "soul and body, which without gymnastics and without education will never be worth anything; and therefore, as we have said not once but many times, the care of riches should have the last place in our thoughts."
"The majority of mankind," he continues, "reverses this order of interests, and therefore it sets literature to one side as of no practical account in human life. More than this, it not only drops it out of mind, but it has no conception of its influence and power in the very affairs from which it seems to be excluded … . Just as it is that virtue saves the state, if it be saved, although the majority do not recognise it, and attribute the salvation of the state to energy," etc., … "so it is that in the life of generations of men considered from an ethical and not from a religious point of view, the most potent and lasting influence for a civilisation that is worth anything, … is that which I call literature."
In this sentence we find the keynote of Charles Dudley Warner's life - the reason why we are led to speak of him and remember him as one of the agents toward the better, the larger life of our land.
"Literature," he says again, "must have in it something of the enduring and the universal … . In books of law, theology, politics, medicine, science, travel, adventure, biography, philosophy, and fiction there may be passages that possess, or the whole contents may possess, that quality which comes within our meaning of literature. There must be an appeal to the universal in the race … . The subject of a production does not always determine the desired quality which makes it literature … . A biography may contain all the facts in regard to a man and his character arranged in an orderly and comprehensible manner, and yet not be literature; but it may be so written, like Plutarch's 'Lives' or Defoe's 'Account of Robinson Crusoe,' that it is literature and of imperishable value as a picture of human life, as a satisfaction to the want of the human mind which is higher than the want of knowledge … . It may be weighty and profound; it may be light, as light as the fall of a leaf or a bird's song on the shore; it may be the thought of Plato where he discourses of the character necessary in a perfect state, or of Socrates, who, out of the theorem of an absolute beauty and goodness, greatness, and the like, deduces the immortality of the soul; or it may be the love song of a Scotch ploughman, something ministering to a need in human nature higher than a need for facts, for knowledge, for wealth." Warner had set himself no easy task to define why literature not of knowledge alone, but of a higher power, was a force greater than that of physical forces. But he never relaxed in his noble endeavour to make this truth clear, and while he regrets that the natural division of occupations should cause a want of sympathy between the followers of the various pursuits existing in the world, and while he recognises the disappointing fact, occasionally met, of the "arrogance of culture," he still makes the truth evident that "the production of the poet is as necessary to universal men as the atmosphere … . We all know it is true, true in our individual consciousness, that if a man be known as a poet and nothing else, if his character is sustained by no other achievement than the production of poetry, he suffers in our opinion a loss of respect. And this is only recovered for a man after he is dead and his poetry is left alone to speak for his name … . This popular estimate of the poet extends also, possibly in less degree, to all the producers of the literature that does not concern itself with knowledge. It is not our care to inquire further why this is so, but to repeat that it is strange that it should be so when poetry is, and has been at all times, the universal solace of all peoples who have emerged out of barbarism, the one thing not supernatural, and yet akin to the supernatural, that makes the world, in its hard and sordid conditions, tolerable to the race. For poetry is not merely the comfort of the refined and the delight of the educated; it is the alleviator of poverty, the pleasure-ground of the ignorant, the bright spot in the most dreary pilgrimage … .
"The hard conditions of the lonely New England life, with its religious theories as somber as its forests, … would have been unendurable if they had not been touched with the ideal created by the poet. There was in creed and purpose the vitality that creates a state, and, as Menander says, the country which is cultivated with difficulty produces brave men; but we leave out an important element in the lives of the Pilgrims if we overlook the means they had of living above their barren circumstances. I do not speak only of the culture which many of them brought from the universities, of the Greek and Roman classics, and what unworldly literature they could glean from the productive age of Elizabeth and James, but of another source, more universally resorted to, and more powerful in exciting imagination and emotion, and filling the want in human nature of which we have spoken. They had the Bible, and it was more to them, much more, than a book of religion, than a revelation of religious truth, a rule for the conduct of life, or a guide to heaven … . It opened to them a boundless realm of poetry and imagination … . The Bible is the best illustration of the literature of power, for it always concerns itself with life, it touches it at all points. And this is the test of any piece of literature - its universal appeal to human nature." … .
Charles Dudley Warner's love for his kind, for life, for the varied resources and beauty in human nature developing in endless and unexpected forms, led him, as we have seen, far and wide, but everything was focussed in his central idea of the "relation of literature to life." His constant study, excepting the few early years given to the law, was in pondering the method of saying what he believed could help the world in the simplest and clearest style. "I have learned," he said, "that the most effective word-painting, as it is called, is the simplest … . In those moments when we have a clear vision of life that which seems to us most admirable and desirable is the simplicity that endears to us the idyl of Nausicaä." … .
Whatever his labour might be by the way, whether for prisons, for the negro, for women, for schools, for hospitals, the form of labour possible to him was by pen and speech. This he followed for the aggrandisement of letters. In no other way, he believed, can the people be so surely guided to higher ends. No university work for the training of newspaper men and editors can succeed until they have grasped one and all this primal idea of literature as the surest means for the education of the people. Only by perfecting the medium can this be achieved. The irresistible manner of saying is born of character.
Warner's faith in literature led him to be a prop and inciter to young authors. Where he could discern real talent and character he was ready to become a mainstay. Only those shivering upon the edge of a plunge into the sea of literary life can know what a help he was and what happiness his hope in behalf of others gave. His advice was born out of wide experience. There is a record of one of the many cases of his helpfulness, where he writes to Sarah Orne Jewett, who had confided to him the actual beginning of a story which he had first suggested and she had long been planning, "The Tory Lover"; "I am not in the least alarmed about the story, now that you are committed to it by the printing of the beginning, only this, that if you let the fire slow down to rest for a week or so, please do not take up any other work, but rest really. Do not let any other theme come in to distract your silent mulling over the story. Keep your frame of mind in it. The stopping to do any little thing will distract you. Hold the story always in solution in your mind ready to be precipitated when your strength permits. That is to say, even if your fires are banked up, keep the story fused in your mind." He wrote also to the same friend: "The Pointed Firs in your note perfumed the house as soon as the letter was opened, and were quite as grateful to me as your kind approval … . We are greatly rejoiced to know that you are getting better. I quite agree with you that being sick is fun compared to getting well. I want to see you ever so much and talk to you about your novel, and explain to you a little what I tried to do with Evelyn in my own. It seems to me possible to educate a child with good literature as well as bad; at least I tried the experiment. Most affectionately yours."
In July, 1900, he wrote to the present writer from Hartford: "My dear Friend: I have been told that there is to be a little clearing out of our house and a temporary break-up on the 7th or 9th of August … . You see this leaves me unprovided for, and out in the heat. I can no longer walk my five to ten miles a day with my dog Sam in the region of Hartford. My face neuralgia is slowly improving, but I have not much liking for general company, in which I should have to explain myself. It has been suggested that you might like to renew your invitation, and take me in for a little at this time, for the sake of what I used to be , or what you used to think I was. I may also stay a little with Woodberry at Beverly. If S. O. J. is not with you I might run up to South Berwick and see her. I might call on Howells at Annisquam. Perhaps Aldrich is somewhere stranded on your coast. It is so long since Id have seen anybody, that I have quite a longing for converse with the unfortunate class to which I belong. I mean the slaves and bond servants of the publishers."
Sunday, August 19, 1900, he writes from the New Marlboro Inn: "My dear Friend: … . It is really a heavenly Sunday in the (illegible) of a lovely land of high pastures and woods, and the clearest, most inspiring air! You could not make a better day if you had the recipe. We have been wandering all the morning over the hills before lunch … . I reached Great Barrington yesterday after four. The distance is only ten miles here, but it is mostly up hill, and I had two hours and a half in which to enjoy the splendid fields and the general country solitude … . It is one of the few open and cheerful and secluded places I know."
September 1st brought his last note to the same: "Dear Friend: It 'looks like' your Massachusetts Boards would have to run their own career of sentimentalism and cant." (This refers to the lack of feeling about the necessity for adopting proper methods of reforming criminals.) "The sort of criminal religion they are after has about as much fruit as a Judas Tree.
"Well, 'lets' you and S. and I try to be good. I mean to go to Plymouth September 15th, to a Mayflower meeting.
"CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER."
Each friend to whom he wrote familiarly must remember and treasure such notes as these. As one re-reads them, they bring back his voice, his smile, the light of his clear eyes. No man could have been dearer to his friends, and it was from a happy hour with a little group of them that he went suddenly and swiftly away from this world. There was to be in his life no winter of enforced idleness, no laying down of his armour before his life's end.
An editorial of his own newspaper, The Hartford Courant, has come into the hands of the writer, just as this brief memorial must close.
THE TWENTIETH OF OCTOBER, 1903
"It was on an October 20 - three years ago - that Mr. Warner went away from us. His friends have not even begun to forget him; and they never will. As they turn the pages of his books, or find themselves in some place dear from old association, the familiar voice speaks again, and again the shrewd, benignant eyes look into theirs.
"His life was a full and helpful and happy life. He went through this world with an alert interest in everything to be seen in the journey - observing, comprehending, and interpreting. His tastes, like his sympathies, were very catholic. He was a good comrade and audience for John Burroughs in the woods; nature was a perpetual delight to him, and for his pet haunts here in new England he had a love that would have endeared him to St. Francis, but Dr. Johnson would have found him a companion to his liking in a ramble down Fleet Street. The cities interested him, the go-and-come of the streets, the shops, the politics, the talk of the clubs, the clamour of the stock exchange. He never wearied of the study of men - their ambitions, struggles, slips, and recoveries. Nothing human was dull to him, or unimportant. He did what he could - and not by any means in his books alone - to make the world a saner, wholesomer world for men, even the most unfortunate of them, to live in. It was said by somebody that nothing else in him was so remarkable as this all-around interest, understanding, and sympathy. But what his friends remember most vividly and thankfully is his friendliness.
"Emerson, many years ago, put into words his idea and ideal of friendship, as follows:
" 'It is for aid and comfort through all the relations and passages of life and death. It is fit for serene days, and graceful gifts, and country rambles, but also for rough roads and hard fare, shipwreck, poverty and persecution. It keeps company with the sallies of the wit and the trances of religion. We are to dignify to each other the daily needs and offices of man's life, and embellish it by courage, wisdom, and unity.'
"The Friendship of Charles Dudley Warner was of that staying, sufficing quality. It measured up to the Emerson tests."
Any account of such a newspaper editor as Charles Dudley Warner would be sadly at fault without a fuller account of this stewardship in that direction than it has been the writer's power to give unaided; therefore the subjoined letter was gratefully received from his successor in editorship, Mr. Charles Hopkins Clark, who came a very young man into the Courant office and into Mr. Warner's closest friendship:
"I am very glad to send you a little something about Mr. Warner, though I am painfully aware that it will be inadequate. One of my great regrets is that I did not keep any journal or other memorandum to record some at least of the innumerable wise and clever sayings which came so spontaneously into his every-day conversation. The whole room seemed to sparkle when he came into it.
"I worked in one capacity or another under him on the Hartford Courant for about thirty years, and it is mortifying not to be able to say more, and more definitely, of one so vividly and fondly remembered. Mr. Warner was the best all-around newspaper man I ever met. He had made his way up from exchange editor at $800 a year, and he knew the practical side of the work, and he had a clear notion of just how each department should be conducted and what a newspaper should be. His editorial policy, often emphasized to his younger associates, was "Be sure you are right and then don't worry. You may be in the minority at first, but no for long.' He had a cheerful optimism in practice, although he sometimes talked despondently of the drift of things. His sense of news was keen and sure. 'Why didn't you have something in the paper to-day,' he asked, 'about that matter we were talking of yesterday?' 'Oh,' was the reply, 'I did not think it would interest people.' 'It interested us, didn't it?' he went on, 'and aren't we people? What interests us will interest others, and it is what interests them that people want to read.'
"He wrote with the utmost ease and had the largest fund of general information at hand, and the widest range of interests, of all the men I have known. He was especially recognised in those articles that were more or less essaistical and in which his delicious humour had a chance to play. But he wrote also on occasions the most virile and strenuous political editorials. Often when his partner and fellow-editor, General Hawley, would come home after a long absence, people dropping into the office would say they were glad to see 'Hawley's vigorous pen at work again,' while, in fact, what they had noticed was another of Mr. Warner's leaders. His style of writing adapted itself to his theme. He did this work and then moved along to the next thing and did not carry all the time in mind what he had done. I recall that once, at my urgent request, when Mrs. Stowe was reported dying, he wrote an editorial about her to be published at her death. She rallied and lived months, perhaps years. When finally the article appeared he was at the South. On receiving his Courant he wrote home expressing his hearty approval of the editorial, adding that there were things in there that he had always intended to say when the time came. He was quite curious to know who the author was. Whenever anything appeared in the paper which he particularly liked it was his way to find who wrote it and to tell him that he liked it and why. He was especially considerate of the young men and always ready to encourage them. His cheery companionship belonged to all of us in the office. Long after his active work on The Courant ceased, indeed, up to and including the day of his death, he came there regularly, ran his eye over the papers, and discussed the news of the day. His kindly, simple, and loveable nature put all at ease who came in contact with him, and his ready wit, his broad views of life, his quick and true judgment, not only entertained but instructed them. His personality pervaded the whole office. Not only did he establish the standard for all who worked under him, but he was the standard himself."
In the November number of Harper's Magazine after Mr. Warner's death Mr. Howells published in the "Easy Chair" the following tribute in token of their friendship:
"Nothing in a man's life can so absolutely free us concerning him as its end; and if we then grieve that our praise can no longer soothe the dull, cold ear, we are safe in knowing that we cannot wound it. We are liberated to the wish of seeing him as he was, and we are as far from the wish to overpraise his work as to censure it. More than ever in that solemn, sudden absence we feel the grotesqueness of insincerity, and could wish to speak of it as it would wish to speak of itself, if it did not fear being misunderstood. But the friend whom we all lost, whether we personally knew him or not, in Charles Dudley Warner, was a man little given to speaking of himself. Some literary men have the habit, not less modestly than those who have it not, of talking freely of their work, both in and out of print; but it would not be easy to find in his work any expression of his sense of it. No doubt he knew how to value it rightly, and he was personally present in it in uncommon measure. It was his voice speaking all the more directly for himself because of the transparent mask he put on in those little humourous studies which first charmed us; it was always his voice we heard in what he wrote and it appealed to each of us as from the heart of his own personality. The true form of his art was at its best in the series of essays which preceded his fiction. 'My Summer in a Garden,' 'Backlog Studies,' 'Saunterings,' 'Adirondack Sketches,' 'Baddeck, and That Sort of Thing' - it is a pleasure to name them over, and for their old lovers each name will have a glimmer of the opalescence which filled the things themselves with lovely light. They were of the quality which we felt in his fiction, but felt not so intimately, and in his effort to make it felt intimately there was the defect of this fiction. He had not the novelist's habit of using experience imaginatively, structurally. He had rather the essayist's habit of using it illustratively, even decoratively, and in a time of far greater novelists it was his distinction to be the first essayist among the rarest few. In one little book of his, which is still an essay, he made perhaps his most original contribution to literature. It would be idle to say that no one else could have written anything like 'Being a Boy,' but it is certain that no one else had, when he conceived of an autobiographic study of all boyhood, which should be as true to every other man's sense of his own boyhood as it was to the author's, and which as it were dramatised the nature of a boy. In its sense of character still in the bud it has not been equalled, if it ever will be.
"No one has seen life more kindly and wisely. His range was very wide, and he wrote with delightful intelligence of other lands and peoples, as different from one another as they were alien to ours. His travels were of the mood which every educated American will recognise as having been his own in the period of moral expansion following the great war, when we were beginning to judge the Old World without provincial arrogance or colonial servility. They are full of young pleasure in the Continent and Orient which cannot be known to a generation grown over-familiar unto both; and this mood, which may make them chiefly interesting hereafter to the student of their period, is strongly characteristic of the essays which it will establish as a part of literature. No man who is not thoroughly of his own time can survive it, and Charles Dudley Warner was conspicuously a New England American of the decades between 1870 and 1890, which witnessed his greatest literary activity. He first made himself known as a gentle humourist of a certain whimsical, dry quaintness, and then, when we were all in love with him for this, we found him a humanist of a temper as fine. While we were still smiling with him at the rich drolling in 'A Fight With a Bear' and 'Killing a Trout,' we found our eyes wet with the pathos he invoked in 'Hunting the Deer.' It may be forgotten how, without acquiring the evil fame of a reformer, he went on to self-sacrificing labours in various philanthropies; but what he did for mankind in literature, to console or to move it, will not be forgotten if any American work of our time is to become an English classic. No one of our authors except Curtis led so much the life of a public man, but Warner was scarcely thought of as a public man so greatly by virtue of its truest expression was his life that of a literary man. He was a journalist, an economist, a philanthropist; he remains an essayist, a humourist, an artist of delicate fibre, of rare temperament, of a certain charm, impossible not to feel peculiarly his. When people were once tried almost beyond endurance by the most exasperating of winters, he said, 'Everybody is talking about the weather, why doesn't somebody do something?' And this, with its subtle irony of human futility, is perhaps one of the most representative examples of his wit, but this humour was an aroma which interfused all his thought, and filled his page with the constant surprise of its presence. He was, in everything he wrote, of a high ideal. He thought literature worthy of the best he could do; and all that he did was in the interest of those more refined good morals which we call good manners; it was polite literature. His artistic conscience was of one make with his ethical conscience, and whether he was always aware of it or not, he addressed his reader from both. What he wrote, that he was; and to praise him as one from whose books no one could rise with a base or rude thought would be an offence to his memory, so much was his literature a positive counsel of civility, so far was it above the poor virtues of omission. It remains, and will remain, an influence for right behaving through right feeling and thinking. No one to whom letters are dear could help feeling an intimate loss in the sudden passing of that fine and clear intelligence; and it if was one's fortune to be long associated with it, through the same years of aspiration and endeavour, one must feel something of his own life gone out of him with it. It is not for such a one to put on the prophet and declare his future, and it is not the present affair to fix Charles Dudley Warner's place in literature. It is more useful to ascertain its place in him and to realise that whatever the beauty and sweetness of his literatures it was the fainter and slighter image of the beauty and sweetness of his nature."
Surely no recapitulation of Warner's life could be more perfectly made. By one of those singular accidents, as we are pleased to call them, the little line of books called "Lives of Contemporary Men of Letters" was projected shortly before his death and his name was one of the first proposed to lead the series. Contemporary he ever was and will be until all those who have known him are at rest, for he was a man as the prophet says, "such as man shall be, an hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest."
Works of Annie Fields