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By Grant Showerman
WHEN the college Professor holiday, in the attempt to spend that fifteen
picked up the December thousand dollarsa year which was not riches. Atlantic and saw on its first His imagination was of the sober, steadfast, page the title “Riches: A and demure kind, not accustomed to play, Christmas Essay" of course much less work, with material of such mag
he was unable to resist the nitude, and at first he found it somewhat peculiar fascination which such a subject difficult to get it into action; but after rehas for his class, and began to read. Not covering from a momentary paralysis it did that he had any business to be interested in fairly well. such a topic, or that he was really or vitally Fifteen thousand dollars a year! Hecould interested in it; but college professors, like have a home of his own, with calm peace small boys at holiday time, are some- and quiet, instead of inhabiting a Procrustimes given to gazing with distant eyes into tean domicile which was forever interfering the display window of the world's glitter- with both his physical and spiritual coming toys and wondering what they would fort; he could have his own shelves, and fill do if the kind fairy should suddenly make them with his own books, and be relieved her appearance and transport them to the of the necessity of either working amid the realm of possession and enjoyment. He wooden surroundings of the college library began to read with only a mild and con or carrying to and from it armfuls of bortemplative curiosity, knowing perfectly rowed volumes, if indeed it afforded him well the futility of allowing himself to be the works most needful; he could afford a concerned with a theme like that.
cook, a nurse-girl, and a maid to relieve his But when the Professor came to the wife of the too great burden of domestic affirmation that heads of American fami- care; he could make more abundant prolies, with not more than four children, and vision for her future and that of their chilwith incomes of fifteen thousand dollars a dren by taking out another policy, and inyear, had nearly as much money as was good cidentally contribute a trifle more to the for them, though fifteen thousand dollars a salary of his neighbor, the life insurance year was not riches, he suddenly sat up, president—he liked to do a good-natured rubbed his eyes, and took a second look. thing; he could afford his sons and daughYes, there it was, fifteen thousand dollars— ters their fraternity and sorority expenses it had been no mistake of his vision. From without depriving himself and his wife of that moment he was attentive. After con- ordinary comforts; he could even send them vincing himself of the accuracy of his senses, away to college-to some faculty with which his first thought was that the author of the he was not so intimately acquainted, and in essay was indulging in mean and unworthy which he therefore placed greater confidence irony at the expense of simple people like and relieve both them and himself of emhimself, and he began to feel resentful. But barrassment; he could be independent in his no, it was serious enough-fifteen thousand choice of breakfast foods, and set his table dollars a year, though it was not riches, rep- with a view to health rather than economy; resented so nearly as much money as was or, following the reasoning of Mr. Dooley, good for the head of an American family to the effect that “ 'tis not what y'ate that with not more than four children that he gives y' th’indigistion- 'tis the rint,” he could well afford to be particular about what could roll from his shoulders the anxieties he did to make his income bigger.
of meeting the monthly bills, and escape the Here, indeed, was a fruitful theme for nervously prostrating annoyance of being meditation! The Professor sank back in obliged to refuse his wife and daughters the his chair, closed his eyes, and set his imagi- quarterly bonnet and gown; he could afford nation to work, or rather let it loose for a a season in Europe once in a half dozen years
(he had to afford it, whether able or not, or himself received. Many of them were assodrop into the background both in his abili- ciates of himself and of his fellows in the ties and in the esteem of his fellows) with- faculty, and some of them were faculty men out wearing himself thin with economy and of independent means. He recognized, and actual deprivation in the intervals; he could without conceit, that he was possessed of as meet without hardship the, for him, really much culture as they, that his morals were great expense of annual attendance at the as good as theirs, that they were not better gatherings of his two or three learned socie- churchmen than he, nor better citizens. He ties, where his duty alike to himself and to was their equal morally, socially, religiously, his institution (indeed the wishes of his pres- legally, and politically—and a charitable ident were so plainly expressed as to amount public sometimes went so far as to give him almost to compulsion) called him to read, in credit, in spite of his profession, for somethe name of scholarship, some reams of un- thing like as much common sense as they interesting manuscript on uninteresting sub- possessed. They were his friends; he moved jects never heard of before to uninterested in the same social circle with them, and was audiences who would never hear of them welcome-dined with them, went to church again—at least, if their wishes were consult- with them, contributed toward the same ed; he could feel less dependent upon pro- benevolences, educated his children in the motion, and more indifferent to the Jugger- same way, shared in the same ideals, wore naut of original research, and go on build- the same quality of clothing, was bound by ing into the character of his young men and the same conventions — in short, particiwomen students the knowledge already piled pated in their life. Why should he not do so, up and waiting to be used, leaving the writ- endowed as he was with all the gifts of pering of learned volumes to those whom Nat- sonality enjoyed by them? But the fact of ure had begotten for that purpose; he could which he could not dispose was that he was meet the demands of benevolent and relig- participating in a life whose pace was deterious organizations like his neighbors, with- mined by them, not by him, and on the basis, out its costing him ten times as much in pro- not of the things they possessed in common portion to his salary as it did them; he could with him, but on that of money, the one item look forward to an old age not unseemly, in which he was unable to vie with them, when he should neither be an object of and the pace was not accommodated to his Carnegie charity nor suffer indignity or con- financial circumstances. He was their equal tempt at the hands of younger men who had in all but income. That was the troublesome forgotten his long and faithful service and factor in the problem. That was the atra not yet discovered that wisdom was not to cura which climbed up behind his classroom die with them; he could indulge in a canoe, desk with him, and stood waiting at his bedor a launch, or treat his wife to a drive oc- side every morning when he woke. casionally, or discard that rusty, creaking But more than that, other people in the bicycle, out of date years ago, which had community did not view the matter from long made him a conspicuous mark for the his angle. There lay one root of his diffishafts of the small boy's wit in a woodless culty. The community in which the Proand bearless generation.
fessor lived did not judge him according But the Professor opened his eyes, and to his salary, nor indeed did they take the they rested upon the reality. He had hardly trouble to inquire what it was; but ignorantrealized the extent of his poverty hitherto. ly, though reasonably, classed him among Here was a sober estimate which placed the rich with whom he kept company. From a comfortable annual living expense, not the tailor and grocer down to the plumber riches, at fifteen thousand dollars-some- and the ashman, all based the valuation of thing like ten times the amount he was re- their services to him on the assumption that ceiving! If fifteen thousand a year was not he was rich; the milliner and dressmaker riches, what was his own income to be de- served his wife on the same assumption; the nominated ? He analyzed the situation, and church looked to him for generous donasomewhat more fully than he had ever done tions of time and money; he was solicited before. He looked about in the community for contribution to every benevolent project upon those who possessed, if not the fifteen which arose; the Improvement Association thousand, at least a great deal more than he levied upon him for funds to keep up public
drives over which he had never driven; the that he had managed to make it support his lawyer charged him the same fees he did the household; that the second year he had remerchant or banker whose income was five ceived a thousand, which had gone no farther times his; the surgeon expected as much than the eight hundred; and that of twelve, from him for the removal of his appendix fourteen, fifteen, eighteen hundred, and two as he did from the rich lawyer or broker thousand no greater sum remained at the or his rich neighbor of independent fortune; end of the year than had remained of the his sons associated with the sons of corpora- eight hundred; and that the expenses which tion magnates; his wife's intimate friends in took all his income now seemed to him as the Woman's Club were among the richest natural and necessary, and as little extravawomen in town, and she and her daughters gant, as those of the first year. His needs looked to him to dress them like the daugh- had sprung into being as fast as his salary ters and wife of the banker. His whole sal- had risen to meet them. His increases of ary went in the attempt to meet all these de- salary had contributed appreciably to the mands; his whole life was a more or less un- comfort of mind and body of the tradessuccessful effort to appear worthy of the cir- men with whom he had dealt, and had temcle in which his family seemed intended by porarily relieved his family of what seemed nature to move. This was why his library to them real need; but as for himself, he was as full of gaps as his purse was of cob- had become a stranger to peace of mind, webs; this was why his clothes were so dan- and had almost as little peace of body. He gerously near being threadbare; this was had yielded to pressure, and allowed himself why he had grown wrinkled and gray in the to be bound by new needs as they arose one effort to piece out his salary by struggling by one, until he was hopelessly entangled with magazine articles during the midnight in the meshes of an interminable net. hours of term time and through the vacation If he could only have headed off the new days which should have been given up to an needs from the beginning!
If he attempt to regain something of the elasticity could only begin now.
Here might of mind lost during the year; this was why lie a remedy. Why not begin now? He his digestion was impaired, and why some called to mind the golden words of Thomas of the delight of teaching had left him, and Carlyle: The fraction of life increases in something of the sunshine of his presence value not so much by increasing the numerahad begun to be missed by his students. tor as by lessening the denominator. He had Clearly, it was an impossibility. Clearly, not properly kept his denominator down, he either the company of his choice had set up saw. He remembered the equally golden a wrong ideal, or he had chosen the wrong words of Stevenson: To be truly happy is a company.
question of how we begin, and not of how we The Professor cast about for remedies. end, of what we want, and not of what we Naturally, his first thought was that his own have. That he had allowed himself to want income ought to be greater. Why should too much was now very clear to him. He the lawyer, the physician, the life insurance remembered his Horace, too: president, the broker, or the banker, whose
Contracto melius parva cupidine professional preparation had been no more
Vectigalia porrigam protracted and no more expensive than his
Quam si Mygdoniis regnum Alyattei own, and whose services to the common- Campis continuem. Multa petentibus
Desunt multa: bene est cui deus obtulit wealth were no more valuable, receive a re
Parca quod satis est manu. ward so much greater than that received by him? In justice, either his own reward He remembered the reply of wise old Socshould be greater, or theirs less; and in either rates, whose property was worth about one case he could live on terms of greater equal- hundred dollars all told, to Kritoboulos, ity with them.
who had a hundredfold thatamount: he himBut the Professor could see well enough self, said the homely philosopher, was the that neither of these remedies would be rich man of the two, for his possessions satiswrought in time for his own salvation. His fied his wants, while Kritoboulos, whose inspeculation took another direction. He re- come was only a third the sum needed to membered that his first year's service had satisfy his, was the poor man. He also brought him just eight hundred dollars, and thought he saw in his mental storehouse a
text or two from the Scriptures, though his own course, nevertheless, and rely upon through a glass somewhat darkly, for he had nature to form him his circle of friends from gradually dropped the old-fashioned habit among those who did the same? Why folof quoting, discouraged by the mystified low the many-headed beast of society at all ? look on the faces of his pupils and associates. Was there no geniality and no sociability Nevertheless, he recalled, by dint of effort, for men of less than fifteen thousand dollars that the life was more than meat, and the income? Was there no friendly intercourse body more than raiment, and that a man's without elaborate dinners? Was there any life consisted not in the abundance of the law of nature, or any principle of common things he possessed.
sense, which made it necessary for an eduAfter all, had he not been beguiled by false cator of the youth of a democracy to have ideals? Had he been right in thinking it in his wardrobe three styles of hat, four necessary to meet his richer friends on their styles of coat, two or three styles of shoe, own ground—to make his dinners as elab- and all the appurtenances thereto? Where orate as theirs, to dress his family as they was the ideal of plain living and high thinkdressed theirs ? Was it desirable, after all, ing? Why not austere living and high that he have a launch or an automobile, or thinking, if necessary ? even a carriage, or that his wife have a cook, These thoughts the Professor, in coma nurse-girl, and a chamber-maid? Had munion with himself. He had been purnot his idea as to what constituted kindness suing a false ideal, and had got into the to his family been, after all, a trifle distorted? wrong company. Clearly, he could not inWasit, after all, desirable that his wife spend crease the numerator; ergo, he would lessen her time exclusively in social and intellectual the denominator. He would amend his pursuits? Would she be a whit happier with ways, and be happier; the simple life for no housework to do and no children to care him henceforth. All his good resolutions for? Was it, after all, necessary, or even he made on the Ides, and on the Kalends desirable, for his sons and daughters to be began to break them. He could not free long to fraternities and sororities ? Was it himself from the meshes—and his struggles absolutely necessary that he live in a large were, to tell the truth, not very violent. The house in the wealthy quarter of the city, incomes of his associates must come down, and that his furniture, rugs, and china be or his own must come up, or society be made as fine as those of his rich neighbors? Did over, before he is relieved of his burden, or those neighbors, after all, require it of him? ceases to be haunted by the vision of old age Could he not retain their friendship and and the charity fund. esteem by the dignified pursuit of an even Meanwhile, his consolation is in the course of life according to his own income? nobility of his calling and in the delight of If not, why would it not be better to keep to pursuing it.
THE POINT OF VIEW
E who in passing through Connecticut, of our education had so taken hold of our on his way between New York and whole nature that we were incapable of look
Boston, has heard people boarding or ing at language, save through the media of leaving the train at Norwich pronounce the reading and writing. We seem to have an name of that city “Nor-wich” (as it is insuperable instinct to pronounce words as spelled), instead of “Norrich," has been they are spelled. brought face to face with a problem of no in- If this influence of spelling is strikingly considerable magnitude-as Mr. Pickwick exemplified in our use of our own language, said of the study of politics. This problem think what hold it must have on us when we is the strong influence of spelling upon pro- try to learn a foreign one! To be sure, long nunciation, of written language, as trans- experience has shown that by far the best lated to the ear by the eye, upon spoken way to learn a new language is through the language.
ear, from viva-voce speech, rather than In using our own language we Americans from books and written exercises. But how are particularly exposed to this influence. few of us are willing to lend ourselves recepOur first colonization, and more especially tively and flexibly to the process! So much our separation from England by the Revo- of our knowledge has been acquired by readlution, brought about a certain disruption in ing, through the eye, that we have grown old traditions; time-honored pronunciations insensibly to distrust our ear, and feel that of words, especially of proper names, were we have not fully mastered a new word until gradually forgotten, and we began to pro- we know how it looks in black and white. nounce those names as we saw them written Notice anyone asking a Frenchman the -at times to a considerable veiling of their French word for a common object; what derivation. Take, for instance, the town of first strikes his ear is little better than a jumWaltham, in Massachusetts; every Yankee ble of hardly articulate-seeming sounds which nowadays pronounces the name “Wal-tham” he cannot at once arrange in his mind ac
(the second a like that in “ham" cording to any system known to him; after The Influence of
or “jam”), oblivious of the fact helplessly asking again and again, he at last Spelling upon Pronunciation
that the name really belongs to the takes refuge in, “How do you spell it?"
same general family as Birming- Now, the answer to this last question is in ham, Walsingham, etc., that the t and h most cases precisely the one most likely to were not originally fused into a compound throw him off the right track; for his acconsonant, that the syllabic division came customed phonetic interpretation of his own after the t, not before it, and that the Eng- alphabet has become so ingrained in his mind, lish pronunciation was “Walt'am" (the sec- has taken such entire possession of him, that ond a having the obscure sound of u in he is well-nigh irresistibly impelled to fash“sum”). That this pronunciation at once ion his pronunciation in accordance with it. reveals the meaning of the name—the Home When most of us ask for a foreign word, of Walt' or Walter-seems of little impor- what we really are after is not how the fortance to him who argues; “If W-a-l-t-h-a-m eigner pronounces it, but how we ourselves does not spell “Wal-tham,' what does it should pronounce it if we knew how it spell?"
was spelled. This is no peculiarity of ours. The pronunciation “Waltham” is but one People of other nations are quite as bad out of many instances of the preponderance of what I will call the spelling sense in our I had a characteristic example of this relations to spoken language; it seems as if tendency not long ago, when an Englishman two of those three R's which form the basis and I were trying to get a Pole to pronounce