The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner— Volume 1

Contents:
Author: Charles Dudley Warner

II

We were talking of this late news from Jerusalem. The Fire-Tender was saying that it is astonishing how much is telegraphed us from the East that is not half so interesting. He was at a loss philosophically to account for the fact that the world is so eager to know the news of yesterday which is unimportant, and so indifferent to that of the day before which is of some moment.

MANDEVILLE. I suspect that it arises from the want of imagination. People need to touch the facts, and nearness in time is contiguity. It would excite no interest to bulletin the last siege of Jerusalem in a village where the event was unknown, if the date was appended; and yet the account of it is incomparably more exciting than that of the siege of Metz.

OUR NEXT DOOR. The daily news is a necessity. I cannot get along without my morning paper. The other morning I took it up, and was absorbed in the telegraphic columns for an hour nearly. I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of immediate contact with all the world of yesterday, until I read among the minor items that Patrick Donahue, of the city of New York, died of a sunstroke. If he had frozen to death, I should have enjoyed that; but to die of sunstroke in February seemed inappropriate, and I turned to the date of the paper. When I found it was printed in July, I need not say that I lost all interest in it, though why the trivialities and crimes and accidents, relating to people I never knew, were not as good six months after date as twelve hours, I cannot say.

THE FIRE-TENDER. You know that in Concord the latest news, except a remark or two by Thoreau or Emerson, is the Vedas. I believe the Rig-Veda is read at the breakfast-table instead of the Boston journals.

THE PARSON. I know it is read afterward instead of the Bible.

MANDEVILLE. That is only because it is supposed to be older. I have understood that the Bible is very well spoken of there, but it is not antiquated enough to be an authority.

OUR NEXT DOOR. There was a project on foot to put it into the circulating library, but the title New in the second part was considered objectionable.

HERBERT. Well, I have a good deal of sympathy with Concord as to the news. We are fed on a daily diet of trivial events and gossip, of the unfruitful sayings of thoughtless men and women, until our mental digestion is seriously impaired; the day will come when no one will be able to sit down to a thoughtful, well-wrought book and assimilate its contents.

THE MISTRESS. I doubt if a daily newspaper is a necessity, in the higher sense of the word.

THE PARSON. Nobody supposes it is to women,—that is, if they can see each other.

THE MISTRESS. Don’t interrupt, unless you have something to say; though I should like to know how much gossip there is afloat that the minister does not know. The newspaper may be needed in society, but how quickly it drops out of mind when one goes beyond the bounds of what is called civilization. You remember when we were in the depths of the woods last summer how difficult it was to get up any interest in the files of late papers that reached us, and how unreal all the struggle and turmoil of the world seemed. We stood apart, and could estimate things at their true value.

THE YOUNG LADY. Yes, that was real life. I never tired of the guide’s stories; there was some interest in the intelligence that a deer had been down to eat the lily-pads at the foot of the lake the night before; that a bear’s track was seen on the trail we crossed that day; even Mandeville’s fish-stories had a certain air of probability; and how to roast a trout in the ashes and serve him hot and juicy and clean, and how to cook soup and prepare coffee and heat dish-water in one tin-pail, were vital problems.

THE PARSON. You would have had no such problems at home. Why will people go so far to put themselves to such inconvenience? I hate the woods. Isolation breeds conceit; there are no people so conceited as those who dwell in remote wildernesses and live mostly alone.

THE YOUNG LADY. For my part, I feel humble in the presence of mountains, and in the vast stretches of the wilderness.

THE PARSON. I’ll be bound a woman would feel just as nobody would expect her to feel, under given circumstances.

MANDEVILLE. I think the reason why the newspaper and the world it carries take no hold of us in the wilderness is that we become a kind of vegetable ourselves when we go there. I have often attempted to improve my mind in the woods with good solid books. You might as well offer a bunch of celery to an oyster. The mind goes to sleep: the senses and the instincts wake up. The best I can do when it rains, or the trout won’t bite, is to read Dumas’s novels. Their ingenuity will almost keep a man awake after supper, by the camp-fire. And there is a kind of unity about them that I like; the history is as good as the morality.

OUR NEXT DOOR. I always wondered where Mandeville got his historical facts.

THE MISTRESS. Mandeville misrepresents himself in the woods. I heard him one night repeat "The Vision of Sir Launfal"—(THE FIRE-TENDER. Which comes very near being our best poem.)—as we were crossing the lake, and the guides became so absorbed in it that they forgot to paddle, and sat listening with open mouths, as if it had been a panther story.

THE PARSON. Mandeville likes to show off well enough. I heard that he related to a woods’ boy up there the whole of the Siege of Troy. The boy was very much interested, and said "there’d been a man up there that spring from Troy, looking up timber." Mandeville always carries the news when he goes into the country.

MANDEVILLE. I’m going to take the Parson’s sermon on Jonah next summer; it’s the nearest to anything like news we’ve had from his pulpit in ten years. But, seriously, the boy was very well informed. He’d heard of Albany; his father took in the "Weekly Tribune," and he had a partial conception of Horace Greeley.

OUR NEXT DOOR. I never went so far out of the world in America yet that the name of Horace Greeley did n’t rise up before me. One of the first questions asked by any camp-fire is, "Did ye ever see Horace?"

HERBERT. Which shows the power of the press again. But I have often remarked how little real conception of the moving world, as it is, people in remote regions get from the newspaper. It needs to be read in the midst of events. A chip cast ashore in a refluent eddy tells no tale of the force and swiftness of the current.

OUR NEXT DOOR. I don’t exactly get the drift of that last remark; but I rather like a remark that I can’t understand; like the landlady’s indigestible bread, it stays by you.

HERBERT. I see that I must talk in words of one syllable. The newspaper has little effect upon the remote country mind, because the remote country mind is interested in a very limited number of things. Besides, as the Parson says, it is conceited. The most accomplished scholar will be the butt of all the guides in the woods, because he cannot follow a trail that would puzzle a sable (saple the trappers call it).

THE PARSON. It’s enough to read the summer letters that people write to the newspapers from the country and the woods. Isolated from the activity of the world, they come to think that the little adventures of their stupid days and nights are important. Talk about that being real life! Compare the letters such people write with the other contents of the newspaper, and you will see which life is real. That’s one reason I hate to have summer come, the country letters set in.

THE MISTRESS. I should like to see something the Parson does n’t hate to have come.

MANDEVILLE. Except his quarter’s salary; and the meeting of the American Board.

THE FIRE-TENDER. I don’t see that we are getting any nearer the solution of the original question. The world is evidently interested in events simply because they are recent.

OUR NEXT DOOR. I have a theory that a newspaper might be published at little cost, merely by reprinting the numbers of years before, only altering the dates; just as the Parson preaches over his sermons.

THE FIRE-TENDER. It’s evident we must have a higher order of news-gatherers. It has come to this, that the newspaper furnishes thought-material for all the world, actually prescribes from day to day the themes the world shall think on and talk about. The occupation of news-gathering becomes, therefore, the most important. When you think of it, it is astonishing that this department should not be in the hands of the ablest men, accomplished scholars, philosophical observers, discriminating selectors of the news of the world that is worth thinking over and talking about. The editorial comments frequently are able enough, but is it worth while keeping an expensive mill going to grind chaff? I sometimes wonder, as I open my morning paper, if nothing did happen in the twenty-four hours except crimes, accidents, defalcations, deaths of unknown loafers, robberies, monstrous births,—say about the level of police-court news.

OUR NEXT DOOR. I have even noticed that murders have deteriorated; they are not so high-toned and mysterious as they used to be.

THE FIRE-TENDER. It is true that the newspapers have improved vastly within the last decade.

HERBERT. I think, for one, that they are very much above the level of the ordinary gossip of the country.

THE FIRE-TENDER. But I am tired of having the under-world still occupy so much room in the newspapers. The reporters are rather more alert for a dog-fight than a philological convention. It must be that the good deeds of the world outnumber the bad in any given day; and what a good reflex action it would have on society if they could be more fully reported than the bad! I suppose the Parson would call this the Enthusiasm of Humanity.

THE PARSON. You’ll see how far you can lift yourself up by your boot-straps.

HERBERT. I wonder what influence on the quality (I say nothing of quantity) of news the coming of women into the reporter’s and editor’s work will have.

OUR NEXT DOOR. There are the baby-shows; they make cheerful reading.

THE MISTRESS. All of them got up by speculating men, who impose upon the vanity of weak women.

HERBERT. I think women reporters are more given to personal details and gossip than the men. When I read the Washington correspondence I am proud of my country, to see how many Apollo Belvederes, Adonises, how much marble brow and piercing eye and hyacinthine locks, we have in the two houses of Congress.

THE YOUNG LADY. That’s simply because women understand the personal weakness of men; they have a long score of personal flattery to pay off too.

MANDEVILLE. I think women will bring in elements of brightness, picturesqueness, and purity very much needed. Women have a power of investing simple ordinary things with a charm; men are bungling narrators compared with them.

THE PARSON. The mistake they make is in trying to write, and especially to "stump-speak," like men; next to an effeminate man there is nothing so disagreeable as a mannish woman.

HERBERT. I heard one once address a legislative committee. The knowing air, the familiar, jocular, smart manner, the nodding and winking innuendoes, supposed to be those of a man "up to snuff," and au fait in political wiles, were inexpressibly comical. And yet the exhibition was pathetic, for it had the suggestive vulgarity of a woman in man’s clothes. The imitation is always a dreary failure.

THE MISTRESS. Such women are the rare exceptions. I am ready to defend my sex; but I won’t attempt to defend both sexes in one.

THE FIRE-TENDER. I have great hope that women will bring into the newspaper an elevating influence; the common and sweet life of society is much better fitted to entertain and instruct us than the exceptional and extravagant. I confess (saving the Mistress’s presence) that the evening talk over the dessert at dinner is much more entertaining and piquant than the morning paper, and often as important.

THE MISTRESS. I think the subject had better be changed.

MANDEVILLE. The person, not the subject. There is no entertainment so full of quiet pleasure as the hearing a lady of cultivation and refinement relate her day’s experience in her daily rounds of calls, charitable visits, shopping, errands of relief and condolence. The evening budget is better than the finance minister’s.

OUR NEXT DOOR. That’s even so. My wife will pick up more news in six hours than I can get in a week, and I’m fond of news.

MANDEVILLE. I don’t mean gossip, by any means, or scandal. A woman of culture skims over that like a bird, never touching it with the tip of a wing. What she brings home is the freshness and brightness of life. She touches everything so daintily, she hits off a character in a sentence, she gives the pith of a dialogue without tediousness, she mimics without vulgarity; her narration sparkles, but it does n’t sting. The picture of her day is full of vivacity, and it gives new value and freshness to common things. If we could only have on the stage such actresses as we have in the drawing-room!

THE FIRE-TENDER. We want something more of this grace, sprightliness, and harmless play of the finer life of society in the newspaper.

OUR NEXT DOOR. I wonder Mandeville does n’t marry, and become a permanent subscriber to his embodied idea of a newspaper.

THE YOUNG LADY. Perhaps he does not relish the idea of being unable to stop his subscription.

OUR NEXT DOOR. Parson, won’t you please punch that fire, and give us more blaze? we are getting into the darkness of socialism.

Contents:

Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options


Title: The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner— Volume 1

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options


Title: The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner— Volume 1

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Charles Dudley Warner, "II," The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner— Volume 1, ed. Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937 and trans. Townsend, R.S. in The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner—Volume 1 (New York: A. L. Burt Company, 1916), Original Sources, accessed April 19, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CPFHVPL4GC6K6AA.

MLA: Warner, Charles Dudley. "II." The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner— Volume 1, edited by Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937, and translated by Townsend, R.S., in The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner—Volume 1, Vol. 22, New York, A. L. Burt Company, 1916, Original Sources. 19 Apr. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CPFHVPL4GC6K6AA.

Harvard: Warner, CD, 'II' in The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner— Volume 1, ed. and trans. . cited in 1916, The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner—Volume 1, A. L. Burt Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 19 April 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CPFHVPL4GC6K6AA.