As We Go
by Charles Dudley Warner
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Perhaps the "American Girl" may be the agency to bring this about. This charming product of the Western world has come into great prominence of late years in literature and in foreign life, and has attained a notoriety flattering or otherwise to the national pride. No institution has been better known or more marked on the Continent and in England, not excepting the tramway and the Pullman cars. Her enterprise, her daring, her freedom from conventionality, have been the theme of the novelists and the horror of the dowagers having marriageable daughters. Considered as "stock," the American Girl has been quoted high, and the alliances that she has formed with families impecunious but noble have given her eclat as belonging to a new and conquering race in the world. But the American Girl has not simply a slender figure and a fine eye and a ready tongue, she is not simply an engaging and companionable person, she has excellent common-sense, tact, and adaptability. She has at length seen in her varied European experience that it is more profitable to have social good form according to local standards than a reputation for dash and brilliancy. Consequently the American Girl of a decade ago has effaced herself. She is no longer the dazzling courageous figure. In England, in France, in Germany, in Italy, she takes, as one may say, the color of the land. She has retired behind her mother. She who formerly marched in the van of the family procession, leading them—including the panting mother—a whimsical dance, is now the timid and retiring girl, needing the protection of a chaperon on every occasion. The satirist will find no more abroad the American Girl of the old type whom he continues to describe. The knowing and fascinating creature has changed her tactics altogether. And the change has reacted on American society. The mother has come once more to the front, and even if she is obliged to own to forty-five years to the census-taker, she has again the position and the privileges of the blooming woman of thirty. Her daughters walk meekly and with downcast (if still expectant) eyes, and wait for a sign.

That this change is the deliberate work of the American Girl, no one who knows her grace and talent will deny. In foreign travel and residence she has been quick to learn her lesson. Dazzled at first by her own capacity and the opportunities of the foreign field, she took the situation by storm. But she found too often that she had a barren conquest, and that the social traditions survived her success and became a lifelong annoyance; that is to say, it was possible to subdue foreign men, but the foreign women were impregnable in their social order. The American Girl abroad is now, therefore, with rare exceptions, as carefully chaperoned and secluded as her foreign sisters.

It is not necessary to lay too much stress upon this phase of American life abroad, but the careful observer must notice its reflex action at home. The American freedom and unconventionality in the intercourse of the young of both sexes, which has been so much commented on as characteristic of American life, may not disappear, but that small section which calls itself "society" may attain a sort of aristocratic distinction by the adoption of this foreign conventionality. It is sufficient now to note this tendency, and to claim the credit of it for the wise and intelligent American Girl. It would be a pity if it were to become nationally universal, for then it would not be the aristocratic distinction of a few, and the American woman who longs for some sort of caste would be driven to some other device.

It is impossible to tell yet what form this feminine reserve and retirement will take. It is not at all likely to go so far as the Oriental seclusion of women. The American Girl would never even seemingly give up her right of initiative. If she is to stay in the background and pretend to surrender her choice to her parents, and with it all the delights of a matrimonial campaign, she will still maintain a position of observation. If she seems to be influenced at present by the French and Italian examples, we may be sure that she is too intelligent and too fond of freedom to long tolerate any system of chaperonage that she cannot control. She will find a way to modify the traditional conventionalities so as not to fetter her own free spirit. It may be her mission to show the world a social order free from the forward independence and smartness of which she has been accused, and yet relieved of the dull stiffness of the older forms. It is enough now to notice that a change is going on, due to the effect of foreign society upon American women, and to express the patriotic belief that whatever forms of etiquette she may bow to, the American Girl will still be on earth the last and best gift of God to man.


What we want is repose. We take infinite trouble and go to the ends of the world to get it. That is what makes us all so restless. If we could only find a spot where we could sit down, content to let the world go by, away from the Sunday newspapers and the chronicles of an uneasy society, we think we should be happy. Perhaps such a place is Coronado Beach —that semi-tropical flower-garden by the sea. Perhaps another is the Timeo Terrace at Taormina. There, without moving, one has the most exquisite sea and shore far below him, so far that he has the feeling of domination without effort; the most picturesque crags and castle peaks; he has all classic legend under his eye without the trouble of reading, and mediaeval romance as well; ruins from the time of Theocritus to Freeman, with no responsibility of describing them; and one of the loveliest and most majestic of snow mountains, never twice the same in light and shade, entirely revealed and satisfactory from base to summit, with no self or otherwise imposed duty of climbing it. Here are most of the elements of peace and calm spirit. And the town itself is quite dead, utterly exhausted after a turbulent struggle of twenty-five hundred years, its poor inhabitants living along only from habit. The only new things in it—the two caravansaries of the traveler—are a hotel and a cemetery. One might end his days here in serene retrospection, and more cheaply than in other places of fewer attractions, for it is all Past and no Future. Probably, therefore, it would not suit the American, whose imagination does not work so easily backward as forward, and who prefers to build his own nest rather than settle in anybody else's rookery. Perhaps the American deceives himself when he says he wants repose; what he wants is perpetual activity and change; his peace of mind is postponed until he can get it in his own way. It is in feeling that he is a part of growth and not of decay. Foreigners are fond of writing essays upon American traits and characteristics. They touch mostly on surface indications. What really distinguishes the American from all others—for all peoples like more or less to roam, and the English of all others are globe-trotters—is not so much his restlessness as his entire accord with the spirit of "go-ahead," the result of his absolute breaking with the Past. He can repose only in the midst of intense activity. He can sit down quietly in a town that is growing rapidly; but if it stands still, he is impelled to move his rocking-chair to one more lively. He wants the world to move, and to move unencumbered; and Europe seems to him to carry too much baggage. The American is simply the most modern of men, one who has thrown away the impedimenta of tradition. The world never saw such a spectacle before, so vast a territory informed with one uniform spirit of energy and progress, and people tumbling into it from all the world, eager for the fair field and free opportunity. The American delights in it; in Europe he misses the swing and "go" of the new life.

This large explanation may not account for the summer restlessness that overtakes nearly everybody. We are the annual victims of the delusion that there exists somewhere the ideal spot where manners are simple, and milk is pure, and lodging is cheap, where we shall fall at once into content. We never do. For content consists not in having all we want, nor, in not wanting everything, nor in being unable to get what we want, but in not wanting that we can get. In our summer flittings we carry our wants with us to places where they cannot be gratified. A few people have discovered that repose can be had at home, but this discovery is too unfashionable to find favor; we have no rest except in moving about. Looked at superficially, it seems curious that the American is, as a rule, the only person who does not emigrate. The fact is that he can go nowhere else where life is so uneasy, and where, consequently, he would have so little of his sort of repose. To put him in another country would be like putting a nineteenth-century man back into the eighteenth century. The American wants to be at the head of the procession (as he fancies he is), where he can hear the band play, and be the first to see the fireworks of the new era. He thinks that he occupies an advanced station of observation, from which his telescope can sweep the horizon for anything new. And with some reason he thinks so; for not seldom he takes up a foreign idea and tires of it before it is current elsewhere. More than one great writer of England had his first popular recognition in America. Even this season the Saturday Review is struggling with Ibsen, while Boston, having had that disease, has probably gone on to some other fad.

Far be it from us to praise the American for his lack of repose; it is enough to attempt to account for it. But from the social, or rather society, point of view, the subject has a disquieting aspect. If the American young man and young woman get it into their heads that repose, especially of manner, is the correct thing, they will go in for it in a way to astonish the world. The late cultivation of idiocy by the American dude was unique. He carried it to an extreme impossible to the youth of any nation less "gifted." And if the American girl goes in seriously for "repose," she will be able to give odds to any modern languidity or to any ancient marble. If what is wanted in society is cold hauteur and languid superciliousness or lofty immobility, we are confident that with a little practice she can sit stiller, and look more impassive, and move with less motion, than any other created woman. We have that confidence in her ability and adaptability. It is a question whether it is worth while to do this; to sacrifice the vivacity and charm native to her, and the natural impulsiveness and generous gift of herself which belong to a new race in a new land, which is walking always towards the sunrise.

In fine, although so much is said of the American lack of repose, is it not best for the American to be content to be himself, and let the critics adapt themselves or not, as they choose, to a new phenomenon?

Let us stick a philosophic name to it, and call it repose in activity. The American might take the candid advice given by one friend to another, who complained that it was so difficult to get into the right frame of mind. "The best thing you can do," he said, "is to frame your mind and hang it up."


We have not by any means got to the bottom of Realism. It matters very little what the novelists and critics say about it—what it is and what it is not; the attitude of society towards it is the important thing. Even if the critic could prove that nature and art are the same thing, and that the fiction which is Real is only a copy of nature, or if another should prove that Reality is only to be found in the Ideal, little would be gained. Literature is well enough in its place, art is an agreeable pastime, and it is right that society should take up either in seasons when lawn-tennis and polo are impracticable and afternoon teas become flavorless; but the question that society is or should be interested in is whether the young woman of the future—upon whose formation all our social hopes depend—is going to shape herself by a Realistic or an Ideal standard. It should be said in parenthesis that the young woman of the passing period has inclined towards Realism in manner and speech, if not in dress, affecting a sort of frank return to the easy-going ways of nature itself, even to the adoption of the language of the stock exchange, the race-course, and the clubs—an offering of herself on the altar of good-fellowship, with the view, no doubt, of making life more agreeable to the opposite sex, forgetting the fact that men fall in love always, or used to in the days when they could afford that luxury, with an ideal woman, or if not with an ideal woman, with one whom they idealize. And at this same time the world is full of doubts and questionings as to whether marriage is a failure. Have these questionings anything to do with the increasing Realism of women, and a consequent loss of ideals?

Of course the reader sees that the difficulty in considering this subject is whether woman is to be estimated as a work of nature or of art. And here comes in the everlasting question of what is the highest beauty, and what is most to be desired. The Greek artists, it seems to be well established, never used a model, as our artists almost invariably do, in their plastic and pictorial creations. The antique Greek statues, or their copies, which give us the highest conceptions of feminine charm and manly beauty, were made after no woman, or man born of woman, but were creations of the ideal raised to the highest conception by the passionate love and long study of nature, but never by faithful copying of it. The Romans copied the Greek art. The Greek in his best days created the ideal figure, which we love to accept as nature. Generation after generation the Greek learned to draw and learned to observe, until he was able to transmute his knowledge into the forms of grace and beauty which satisfy us as nature at her best; just as the novelist trains all his powers by the observation of life until he is able to transmute all the raw material into a creation of fiction which satisfies us. We may be sure that if the Greek artist had employed the service of models in his studio, his art would have been merely a passing phase in human history. But as it is, the world has ever since been in love with his ideal woman, and still believes in her possibility.

Now the young woman of today should not be deceived into the notion of a preferable Realistic development because the novelist of today gets her to sit to him as his model. This may be no certain indication that she is either good art or good nature. Indeed she may be quite drifting away from the ideal that a woman ought to aim at if we are to have a society that is not always tending into a realistic vulgarity and commonplace. It is perfectly true that a woman is her own excuse for being, and in a way she is doing enough for the world by simply being a woman. It is difficult to rouse her to any sense of her duty as a standard of aspiration. And it is difficult to explain exactly what it is that she is to do. If she asks if she is expected to be a model woman, the reply must be that the world does not much hanker after what—is called the "model woman." It seems to be more a matter of tendency than anything else. Is she sagging towards Realism or rising towards Idealism? Is she content to be the woman that some of the novelists, and some of the painters also, say she is, or would she prefer to approach that ideal which all the world loves? It is a question of standards.

It is natural that in these days, when the approved gospel is that it is better to be dead than not to be Real, society should try to approach nature by the way of the materialistically ignoble, and even go such a pace of Realism as literature finds it difficult to keep up with; but it is doubtful if the young woman will get around to any desirable state of nature by this route. We may not be able to explain why servile imitation of nature degrades art and degrades woman, but both deteriorate without an ideal so high that there is no earthly model for it. Would you like to marry, perhaps, a Greek statue? says the justly contemptuous critic.

Not at all, at least not a Roman copy of one. But it would be better to marry a woman who would rather be like a Greek statue than like some of these figures, without even an idea for clothing, which are lying about on green banks in our spring exhibitions.


Idleness seems to be the last accomplishment of civilization. To be idle gracefully and contentedly and picturesquely is an art. It is one in which the Americans, who do so many things well, do not excel. They have made the excuse that they have not time, or, if they have leisure, that their temperament and nervous organization do not permit it. This excuse will pass for a while, for we are a new people, and probably we are more highly and sensitively organized than any other nation—at least the physiologists say so; but the excuse seems more and more inadequate as we accumulate wealth, and consequently have leisure. We shall not criticise the American colonies in Paris and Rome and Florence, and in other Continental places where they congregate. They know whether they are restless or contented, and what examples they set to the peoples who get their ideas of republican simplicity and virtue from the Americans who sojourn among them. They know whether with all their leisure they get placidity of mind and the real rest which the older nations have learned to enjoy. It may not be the most desirable thing for a human being to be idle, but if he will be, he should be so in a creditable manner, and with some enjoyment to himself. It is no slander to say that we in America have not yet found out the secret of this. Perhaps we shall not until our energies are spent and we are in a state of decay. At present we put as much energy into our pleasure as into our work, for it is inbred in us that laziness is a sin. This is the Puritan idea, and it must be said for it that in our experience virtue and idleness are not commonly companions. But this does not go to the bottom of the matter.

The Italians are industrious; they are compelled to be in order to pay their taxes for the army and navy and get macaroni enough to live on. But see what a long civilization has done for them. They have the manner of laziness, they have the air of leisure, they have worn off the angular corners of existence, and unconsciously their life is picturesque and enjoyable. Those among them who have money take their pleasure simply and with the least expense of physical energy. Those who have not money do the same thing. This basis of existence is calm and unexaggerated; life is reckoned by centimes, not by dollars. What an ideal place is Venice! It is not only the most picturesque city in the world, rich in all that art can invent to please the eye, but how calm it is! The vivacity which entertains the traveler is all on the surface. The nobleman in his palace if there be any palace that is not turned into a hotel, or a magazine of curiosities, or a municipal office—can live on a diet that would make an American workman strike, simply because he has learned to float through life; and the laborer is equally happy on little because he has learned to wait without much labor. The gliding, easy motion of the gondola expresses the whole situation; and the gondolier who with consummate skill urges his dreamy bark amid the throng and in the tortuous canals for an hour or two, and then sleeps in the sun, is a type of that rest in labor which we do not attain. What happiness there is in a dish of polenta, or of a few fried fish, in a cup of coffee, and in one of those apologies for cigars which the government furnishes, dear at a cent—the cigar with a straw in it, as if it were a julep, which it needs five minutes to ignite, and then will furnish occupation for a whole evening! Is it a hard lot, that of the fishermen and the mariners of the Adriatic? The lights are burning all night long in a cafe on the Riva del Schiavoni, and the sailors and idlers of the shore sit there jabbering and singing and trying their voices in lusty hallooing till the morning light begins to make the lagoon opalescent. The traveler who lodges near cannot sleep, but no more can the sailors, who steal away in the dawn, wafted by painted sails. In the heat of the day, when the fish will not bite, comes the siesta. Why should the royal night be wasted in slumber? The shore of the Riva, the Grand Canal, the islands, gleam with twinkling lamps; the dark boats glide along with a star in the prow, bearing youth and beauty and sin and ugliness, all alike softened by the shadows; the electric lights from the shores and the huge steamers shoot gleams on towers and facades; the moon wades among the fleecy clouds; here and there a barge with colored globes of light carries a band of singing men and women and players on the mandolin and the fiddle, and from every side the songs of Italy, pathetic in their worn gayety, float to the entranced ears of those who lean from balconies, or lounge in gondolas and listen with hearts made a little heavy and wistful with so much beauty.

Can any one float in such scenes and be so contentedly idle anywhere in our happy land? Have we learned yet the simple art of easy enjoyment? Can we buy it with money quickly, or is it a grace that comes only with long civilization? Italy, for instance, is full of accumulated wealth, of art, even of ostentation and display, and the new generation probably have lost the power to conceive, if not the skill to execute, the great works which excite our admiration. Nothing can be much more meretricious than its modern art, when anything is produced that is not an exact copy of something created when there was genius there. But in one respect the Italians have entered into the fruits of the ages of trial and of failure, and that, is the capacity of being idle with much money or with none, and getting day by day their pay for the bother of living in this world. It seems a difficult lesson for us to learn in country or city. Alas! when we have learned it shall we not want to emigrate, as so many of the Italians do? Some philosophers say that men were not created to be happy. Perhaps they were not intended to be idle.


Is there any such thing as conversation? It is a delicate subject to touch, because many people understand conversation to be talk; not the exchange of ideas, but of words; and we would not like to say anything to increase the flow of the latter. We read of times and salons in which real conversation existed, held by men and women. Are they altogether in the past? We believe that men do sometimes converse. Do women ever? Perhaps so. In those hours sacred to the relaxation of undress and the back hair, in the upper penetralia of the household, where two or three or six are gathered together on and about the cushioned frame intended for repose, do they converse, or indulge in that sort of chat from which not one idea is carried away? No one reports, fortunately, and we do not know. But do all the women like this method of spending hour after hour, day after day-indeed, a lifetime? Is it invigorating, even restful? Think of the talk this past summer, the rivers and oceans of it, on piazzas and galleries in the warm evenings or the fresher mornings, in private houses, on hotel verandas, in the shade of thousands of cottages by the sea and in the hills! As you recall it, what was it all about? Was the mind in a vapid condition after an evening of it? And there is so much to read, and so much to think about, and the world is so interesting, if you do think about it, and nearly every person has some peculiarity of mind that would be worth study if you could only get at it! It is really, we repeat, such an interesting world, and most people get so little out of it. Now there is the conversation of hens, when the hens are busy and not self-conscious; there is something fascinating about it, because the imagination may invest it with a recondite and spicy meaning; but the common talk of people! We infer sometimes that the hens are not saying anything, because they do not read, and consequently their minds are empty. And perhaps we are right. As to conversation, there is no use in sending the bucket into the well when the well is dry—it only makes a rattling of windlass and chain. We do not wish to be understood to be an enemy of the light traffic of human speech. Deliver us from the didactic and the everlastingly improving style of thing! Conversation, in order to be good, and intellectually inspiring, and spiritually restful, need not always be serious. It must be alert and intelligent, and mean more by its suggestions and allusions than is said. There is the light touch-and-go play about topics more or less profound that is as agreeable as heat-lightning in a sultry evening. Why may not a person express the whims and vagaries of a lambent mind (if he can get a lambent mind) without being hauled up short for it, and plunged into a heated dispute? In the freedom of real conversation the mind throws out half-thoughts, paradoxes, for which a man is not to be held strictly responsible to the very roots of his being, and which need to be caught up and played with in the same tentative spirit. The dispute and the hot argument are usually the bane of conversation and the death of originality. We like to express a notion, a fancy, without being called upon to defend it, then and there, in all its possible consequences, as if it were to be an article in a creed or a plank in a platform. Must we be always either vapid or serious?

We have been obliged to take notice of the extraordinary tendency of American women to cultivation, to the improvement of the mind, by means of reading, clubs, and other intellectual exercises, and to acknowledge that they are leaving the men behind; that is, the men not in the so-called professions. Is this intellectualization beginning to show in the conversation of women when they are together, say in the hours of relaxation in the penetralia spoken of, or in general society? Is there less talk about the fashion of dress, and the dearness or cheapness of materials, and about servants, and the ways of the inchoate citizen called the baby, and the infinitely little details of the private life of other people? Is it true that if a group of men are talking, say about politics, or robust business, or literature, and they are joined by women (whose company is always welcome), the conversation is pretty sure to take a lower mental plane, to become more personal, more frivolous, accommodating itself to quite a different range? Do the well-read, thoughtful women, however beautiful and brilliant and capable of the gayest persiflage, prefer to talk with men, to listen to the conversation of men, rather than to converse with or listen to their own sex? If this is true, why is it? Women, as a rule, in "society" at any rate, have more leisure than men. In the facilities and felicities of speech they commonly excel men, and usually they have more of that vivacious dramatic power which is called "setting out a thing to the life." With all these advantages, and all the world open to them in newspapers and in books, they ought to be the leaders and stimulators of the best conversation. With them it should never drop down to the too-common flatness and banality. Women have made this world one of the most beautiful places of residence to be conceived. They might make it one of the most interesting.


It is the fashion for girls to be tall. This is much more than saying that tall girls are the fashion. It means not only that the tall girl has come in, but that girls are tall, and are becoming tall, because it is the fashion, and because there is a demand for that sort of girl. There is no hint of stoutness, indeed the willowy pattern is preferred, but neither is leanness suggested; the women of the period have got hold of the poet's idea, "tall and most divinely fair," and are living up to it. Perhaps this change in fashion is more noticeable in England and on the Continent than in America, but that may be because there is less room for change in America, our girls being always of an aspiring turn. Very marked the phenomenon is in England; on the street, at any concert or reception, the number of tall girls is so large as to occasion remark, especially among the young girls just coming into the conspicuousness of womanhood. The tendency of the new generation is towards unusual height and gracious slimness. The situation would be embarrassing to thousands of men who have been too busy to think about growing upward, were it not for the fact that the tall girl, who must be looked up to, is almost invariably benignant, and bears her height with a sweet timidity that disarms fear. Besides, the tall girl has now come on in such force that confidence is infused into the growing army, and there is a sense of support in this survival of the tallest that is very encouraging to the young.

Many theories have been put forward to account for this phenomenon. It is known that delicate plants in dark places struggle up towards the light in a frail slenderness, and it is said that in England, which seems to have increasing cloudiness, and in the capital more and more months of deeper darkness and blackness, it is natural that the British girl should grow towards the light. But this is a fanciful view of the case, for it cannot be proved that English men have proportionally increased their stature. The English man has always seemed big to the Continental peoples, partly because objects generally take on gigantic dimensions when seen through a fog. Another theory, which has much more to commend it, is that the increased height of women is due to the aesthetic movement, which has now spent its force, but has left certain results, especially in the change of the taste in colors. The woman of the aesthetic artist was nearly always tall, usually willowy, not to say undulating and serpentine. These forms of feminine loveliness and commanding height have been for many years before the eyes of the women of England in paintings and drawings, and it is unavoidable that this pattern should not have its effect upon the new and plastic generation. Never has there been another generation so open to new ideas; and if the ideal of womanhood held up was that of length and gracious slenderness, it would be very odd if women should not aspire to it. We know very well the influence that the heroines of the novelists have had from time to time upon the women of a given period. The heroine of Scott was, no doubt, once common in society—the delicate creature who promptly fainted on the reminiscence of the scent of a rose, but could stand any amount of dragging by the hair through underground passages, and midnight rides on lonely moors behind mailed and black-mantled knights, and a run or two of hair-removing typhoid fever, and come out at the end of the story as fresh as a daisy. She could not be found now, so changed are the requirements of fiction. We may assume, too, that the full-blown aesthetic girl of that recent period—the girl all soul and faded harmonies—would be hard to find, but the fascination of the height and slenderness of that girl remains something more than a tradition, and is, no doubt, to some extent copied by the maiden just coming into her kingdom.

Those who would belittle this matter may say that the appearance of which we speak is due largely to the fashion of dress—the long unbroken lines which add to the height and encourage the appearance of slenderness. But this argument gives away the case. Why do women wear the present fascinating gowns, in which the lithe figure is suggested in all its womanly dignity? In order that they may appear to be tall. That is to say, because it is the fashion to be tall; women born in the mode are tall, and those caught in a hereditary shortness endeavor to conform to the stature of the come and coming woman.

There is another theory, that must be put forward with some hesitation, for the so-called emancipation of woman is a delicate subject to deal with, for while all the sex doubtless feel the impulse of the new time, there are still many who indignantly reject the implication in the struggle for the rights of women. To say, therefore, that women are becoming tall as a part of their outfit for taking the place of men in this world would be to many an affront, so that this theory can only be suggested. Yet probably physiology would bear us out in saying that the truly emancipated woman, taking at last the place in affairs which men have flown in the face of Providence by denying her, would be likely to expand physically as well as mentally, and that as she is beginning to look down upon man intellectually, she is likely to have a corresponding physical standard.

Seriously, however, none of these theories are altogether satisfactory, and we are inclined to seek, as is best in all cases, the simplest explanation. Women are tall and becoming tall simply because it is the fashion, and that statement never needs nor is capable of any explanation. Awhile ago it was the fashion to be petite and arch; it is now the fashion to be tall and gracious, and nothing more can be said about it. Of course the reader, who is usually inclined to find the facetious side of any grave topic, has already thought of the application of the self-denying hymn, that man wants but little here below, and wants that little long; but this may be only a passing sigh of the period. We are far from expressing any preference for tall women over short women. There are creative moods of the fancy when each seems the better. We can only chronicle, but never create.


Many people regard the keeping of a diary as a meritorious occupation. The young are urged to take up this cross; it is supposed to benefit girls especially. Whether women should do it is to some minds not an open question, although there is on record the case of the Frenchman who tried to shoot himself when he heard that his wife was keeping a diary. This intention of suicide may have arisen from the fear that his wife was keeping a record of his own peccadilloes rather than of her own thoughts and emotions. Or it may have been from the fear that she was putting down those little conjugal remarks which the husband always dislikes to have thrown up to him, and which a woman can usually quote accurately, it may be for years, it may be forever, without the help of a diary. So we can appreciate without approving the terror of the Frenchman at living on and on in the same house with a growing diary. For it is not simply that this little book of judgment is there in black and white, but that the maker of it is increasing her power of minute observation and analytic expression. In discussing the question whether a woman should keep a diary it is understood that it is not a mere memorandum of events and engagements, such as both men and women of business and affairs necessarily keep, but the daily record which sets down feelings, emotions, and impressions, and criticises people and records opinions. But this is a question that applies to men as well as to women.

It has been assumed that the diary serves two good purposes: it is a disciplinary exercise for the keeper of it, and perhaps a moral guide; and it has great historical value. As to the first, it may be helpful to order, method, discipline, and it may be an indulgence of spleen, whims, and unwholesome criticism and conceit. The habit of saying right out what you think of everybody is not a good one, and the record of such opinions and impressions, while it is not so mischievous to the public as talking may be, is harmful to the recorder. And when we come to the historical value of the diary, we confess to a growing suspicion of it. It is such a deadly weapon when it comes to light after the passage of years. It has an authority which the spoken words of its keeper never had. It is 'ex parte', and it cannot be cross-examined. The supposition is that being contemporaneous with the events spoken of, it must be true, and that it is an honest record. Now, as a matter of fact, we doubt if people are any more honest as to themselves or others in a diary than out of it; and rumors, reported facts, and impressions set down daily in the heat and haste of the prejudicial hour are about as likely to be wrong as right. Two diaries of the same events rarely agree. And in turning over an old diary we never know what to allow for the personal equation. The diary is greatly relied on by the writers of history, but it is doubtful if there is any such liar in the world, even when the keeper of it is honest. It is certain to be partisan, and more liable to be misinformed than a newspaper, which exercises some care in view of immediate publicity. The writer happens to know of two diaries which record, on the testimony of eye-witnesses, the circumstances of the last hours of Garfield, and they differ utterly in essential particulars. One of these may turn up fifty years from now, and be accepted as true. An infinite amount of gossip goes into diaries about men and women that would not stand the test of a moment's contemporary publication. But by-and-by it may all be used to smirch or brighten unjustly some one's character. Suppose a man in the Army of the Potomac had recorded daily all his opinions of men and events. Reading it over now, with more light and a juster knowledge of character and of measures, is it not probable that he would find it a tissue of misconceptions? Few things are actually what they seem today; they are colored both by misapprehensions and by moods. If a man writes a letter or makes report of an occurrence for immediate publication, subject to universal criticism, there is some restraint on him. In his private letter, or diary especially, he is apt to set down what comes into his head at the moment, often without much effort at verification.

We have been led to this disquisition into the fundamental nature of this private record by the question put to us, whether it is a good plan for a woman to keep a diary. Speaking generally, the diary has become a sort of fetich, the authority of which ought to be overthrown. It is fearful to think how our characters are probably being lied away by innumerable pen scratches in secret repositories, which may some day come to light as unimpeachable witnesses. The reader knows that he is not the sort of man which the diarist jotted him down to be in a single interview. The diary may be a good thing for self-education, if the keeper could insure its destruction. The mental habit of diarizing may have some value, even when it sets undue importance upon trifles. We confess that, never having seen a woman's private diary (except those that have been published), we do not share the popular impression as to their tenuity implied in the question put to us. Taking it for granted that they are full of noble thoughts and beautiful imaginings, we doubt whether the time spent on them could not be better employed in acquiring knowledge or taking exercise. For the diary forgotten and left to the next generation may be as dangerous as dynamite.


The wisdom of our ancestors packed away in proverbial sayings may always be a little suspected. We have a vague respect for a popular proverb, as embodying folk-experience, and expressing not the wit of one, but the common thought of a race. We accept the saying unquestioning, as a sort of inspiration out of the air, true because nobody has challenged it for ages, and probably for the same reason that we try to see the new moon over our left shoulder. Very likely the musty saying was the product of the average ignorance of an unenlightened time, and ought not to have the respect of a scientific and traveled people. In fact it will be found that a large proportion of the proverbial sayings which we glibly use are fallacies based on a very limited experience of the world, and probably were set afloat by the idiocy or prejudice of one person. To examine one of them is enough for our present purpose.

"Whistling girls and crowing hens Always come to some bad ends."

It would be interesting to know the origin of this proverb, because it is still much relied on as evincing a deep knowledge of human nature, and as an argument against change, that is to say, in this case, against progress. It would seem to have been made by a man, conservative, perhaps malevolent, who had no appreciation of a hen, and a conservatively poor opinion of woman. His idea was to keep woman in her place—a good idea when not carried too far—but he did not know what her place is, and he wanted to put a sort of restraint upon her emancipation by coupling her with an emancipated hen. He therefore launched this shaft of ridicule, and got it to pass as an arrow of wisdom shot out of a popular experience in remote ages.

In the first place, it is not true, and probably never was true even when hens were at their lowest. We doubts its Sanscrit antiquity. It is perhaps of Puritan origin, and rhymed in New England. It is false as to the hen. A crowing hen was always an object of interest and distinction; she was pointed out to visitors; the owner was proud of her accomplishment, he was naturally likely to preserve her life, and especially if she could lay. A hen that can lay and crow is a 'rara avis'. And it should be parenthetically said here that the hen who can crow and cannot lay is not a good example for woman. The crowing hen was of more value than the silent hen, provided she crowed with discretion; and she was likely to be a favorite, and not at all to come to some bad end. Except, indeed, where the proverb tended to work its own fulfillment. And this is the regrettable side of most proverbs of an ill-nature, that they do help to work the evil they predict. Some foolish boy, who had heard this proverb, and was sent out to the hen-coop in the evening to slay for the Thanksgiving feast, thought he was a justifiable little providence in wringing the neck of the crowing hen, because it was proper (according to the saying) that she should come to some bad end. And as years went on, and that kind of boy increased and got to be a man, it became a fixed idea to kill the amusing, interesting, spirited, emancipated hen, and naturally the barn-yard became tamer and tamer, the production of crowing hens was discouraged (the wise old hens laid no eggs with a crow in them, according to the well-known principle of heredity), and the man who had in his youth exterminated the hen of progress actually went about quoting that false couplet as an argument against the higher education of woman.

As a matter of fact, also, the couplet is not true about woman; whether it ought to be true is an ethical question that will not be considered here. The whistling girl does not commonly come to a bad end. Quite as often as any other girl she learns to whistle a cradle song, low and sweet and charming, to the young voter in the cradle. She is a girl of spirit, of independence of character, of dash and flavor; and as to lips, why, you must have some sort of presentable lips to whistle; thin ones will not. The whistling girl does not come to a bad end at all (if marriage is still considered a good occupation), except a cloud may be thrown upon her exuberant young life by this rascally proverb. Even if she walks the lonely road of life, she has this advantage, that she can whistle to keep her courage up. But in a larger sense, one that this practical age can understand, it is not true that the whistling girl comes to a bad end. Whistling pays. It has brought her money; it has blown her name about the listening world. Scarcely has a non-whistling woman been more famous. She has set aside the adage. She has done so much towards the emancipation of her sex from the prejudice created by an ill-natured proverb which never had root in fact.

But has the whistling woman come to stay? Is it well for woman to whistle? Are the majority of women likely to be whistlers? These are serious questions, not to be taken up in a light manner at the end of a grave paper. Will woman ever learn to throw a stone? There it is. The future is inscrutable. We only know that whereas they did not whistle with approval, now they do; the prejudice of generations gradually melts away. And woman's destiny is not linked with that of the hen, nor to be controlled by a proverb—perhaps not by anything.


We have been remiss in not proposing a remedy for our present social and economic condition. Looking backward, we see this. The scheme may not be practical, any more than the Utopian plans that have been put forward, but it is radical and interesting, and requires, as the other schemes do, a total change in human nature (which may be a good thing to bring about), and a general recasting of the conditions of life. This is and should be no objection to a socialistic scheme. Surface measures will not avail. The suggestion for a minor alleviation of inequality, which seems to have been acted on, namely, that women should propose, has not had the desired effect if it is true, as reported, that the eligible young men are taking to the woods. The workings of such a measure are as impossible to predict in advance as the operation of the McKinley tariff. It might be well to legislate that people should be born equal (including equal privileges of the sexes), but the practical difficulty is to keep them equal. Life is wrong somehow. Some are born rich and some are born poor, and this inequality makes misery, and then some lose their possessions, which others get hold of, and that makes more misery. We can put our fingers on the two great evils of life as it now is: the first is poverty; and the second is infirmity, which is the accompaniment of increasing years. Poverty, which is only the unequal distribution of things desired, makes strife, and is the opportunity of lawyers; and infirmity is the excuse for doctors. Think what the world would be without lawyers and doctors!

We are all born young, and most of us are born poor. Youth is delightful, but we are always getting away from it. How different it would be if we were always going towards it! Poverty is unpleasant, and the great struggle of life is to get rid of it; but it is the common fortune that in proportion as wealth is attained the capacity of enjoying it departs. It seems, therefore, that our life is wrong end first. The remedy suggested is that men should be born rich and old. Instead of the necessity of making a fortune, which is of less and less value as death approaches, we should have only the privilege of spending it, and it would have its natural end in the cradle, in which we should be rocked into eternal sleep. Born old, one would, of course, inherit experience, so that wealth could be made to contribute to happiness, and each day, instead of lessening the natural powers and increasing infirmities, would bring new vigor and capacity of enjoyment. It would be going from winter to autumn, from autumn to summer, from summer to spring. The joy of a life without care as to ways and means, and every morning refitted with the pulsations of increasing youth, it is almost impossible to imagine. Of course this scheme has difficulties on the face of it. The allotting of the measure of wealth would not be difficult to the socialists, because they would insist that every person should be born with an equal amount of property. What this should be would depend upon the length of life; and how should this be arrived at? The insurance companies might agree, but no one else would admit that he belongs in the average. Naturally the Biblical limit of threescore and ten suggests itself; but human nature is very queer. With the plain fact before them that the average life of man is less than thirty-four years, few would be willing, if the choice were offered, to compromise on seventy. Everybody has a hope of going beyond that, so that if seventy were proposed as the year at birth, there would no doubt be as much dissatisfaction as there is at the present loose arrangement. Science would step in, and demonstrate that there is no reason why, with proper care of the system, it should not run a hundred years. It is improbable, then, that the majority could be induced to vote for the limit of seventy years, or to exchange the exciting uncertainty of adding a little to the period which must be accompanied by the weight of the grasshopper, for the certainty of only seventy years in this much-abused world.

But suppose a limit to be agreed on, and the rich old man and the rich old woman (never now too old to marry) to start on their career towards youth and poverty. The imagination kindles at the idea. The money would hold out just as long as life lasted, and though it would all be going downhill, as it were, what a charming descent, without struggle, and with only the lessening infirmities that belong to decreasing age! There would be no second childhood, only the innocence and elasticity of the first. It all seems very fair, but we must not forget that this is a mortal world, and that it is liable to various accidents. Who, for instance, could be sure that he would grow young gracefully? There would be the constant need of fighting the hot tempers and impulses of youth, growing more and more instead of less and less unreasonable. And then, how many would reach youth? More than half, of course, would be cut off in their prime, and be more and more liable to go as they fell back into the pitfalls and errors of childhood. Would people grow young together even as harmoniously as they grow old together? It would be a pretty sight, that of the few who descended into the cradle together, but this inversion of life would not escape the woes of mortality. And there are other considerations, unless it should turn out that a universal tax on land should absolutely change human nature. There are some who would be as idle and spendthrift going towards youth as they now are going away from it, and perhaps more, so that half the race on coming to immaturity would be in child asylums. And then others who would be stingy and greedy and avaricious, and not properly spend their allotted fortune. And we should have the anomaly, which is so distasteful to the reformer now, of rich babies. A few babies inordinately rich, and the rest in asylums.

Still, the plan has more to recommend it than most others for removing poverty and equalizing conditions. We should all start rich, and the dying off of those who would never attain youth would amply provide fortunes for those born old. Crime would be less also; for while there would, doubtless, be some old sinners, the criminal class, which is very largely under thirty, would be much smaller than it is now. Juvenile depravity would proportionally disappear, as not more people would reach non-age than now reach over-age. And the great advantage of the scheme, one that would indeed transform the world, is that women would always be growing younger.


The "old soldier" is beginning to outline himself upon the public mind as a distant character in American life. Literature has not yet got hold of him, and perhaps his evolution is not far enough advanced to make him as serviceable as the soldier of the Republic and the Empire, the relic of the Old Guard, was to Hugo and Balzac, the trooper of Italy and Egypt, the maimed hero of Borodino and Waterloo, who expected again the coming of the Little Corporal. It takes time to develop a character, and to throw the glamour of romance over what may be essentially commonplace. A quarter of a century has not sufficed to separate the great body of the surviving volunteers in the war for the Union from the body of American citizens, notwithstanding the organization of the Grand Army of the Republic, the encampments, the annual reunions, and the distinction of pensions, and the segregation in Soldiers' Homes. The "old soldier" slowly eliminates himself from the mass, and begins to take, and to make us take, a romantic view of his career. There was one event in his life, and his personality in it looms larger and larger as he recedes from it. The heroic sacrifice of it does not diminish, as it should not, in our estimation, and he helps us to keep glowing a lively sense of it. The past centres about him and his great achievement, and the whole of life is seen in the light of it. In his retreat in the Home, and in his wandering from one Home to another, he ruminates on it, he talks of it; he separates himself from the rest of mankind by a broad distinction, and his point of view of life becomes as original as it is interesting. In the Homes the battered veterans speak mainly of one thing; and in the monotony of their spent lives develop whimseys and rights and wrongs, patriotic ardors and criticisms on their singular fate, which are original in their character in our society. It is in human nature to like rest but not restriction, bounty but not charity, and the tired heroes of the war grow restless, though every physical want is supplied. They have a fancy that they would like to see again the homes of their youth, the farmhouse in the hills, the cottage in the river valley, the lonesome house on the wide prairie, the street that ran down to the wharf where the fishing-smacks lay, to see again the friends whom they left there, and perhaps to take up the occupations that were laid down when they seized the musket in 1861. Alas! it is not their home anymore; the friends are no longer there; and what chance is there of occupation for a man who is now feeble in body and who has the habit of campaigning? This generation has passed on to other things. It looks upon the hero as an illustration in the story of the war, which it reads like history. The veteran starts out from the shelter of the Home. One evening, towards sunset, the comfortable citizen, taking the mild air on his piazza, sees an interesting figure approach. Its dress is half military, half that of the wanderer whose attention to his personal appearance is only spasmodic.

The veteran gives the military salute, he holds himself erect, almost too erect, and his speech is voluble and florid. It is a delightful evening; it seems to be a good growing-time; the country looks prosperous. He is sorry to be any trouble or interruption, but the fact is—yes, he is on his way to his old home in Vermont; it seems like he would like to taste some home cooking again, and sit in the old orchard, and perhaps lay his bones, what is left of them, in the burying-ground on the hill. He pulls out his well-worn papers as he talks; there is the honorable discharge, the permit of the Home, and the pension. Yes, Uncle Sam is generous; it is the most generous government God ever made, and he would willingly fight for it again. Thirty dollars a month, that is what he has; he is not a beggar; he wants for nothing. But the pension is not payable till the end of the month. It is entirely his own obligation, his own fault; he can fight, but he cannot lie, and nobody is to blame but himself; but last night he fell in with some old comrades at Southdown, and, well, you know how it is. He had plenty of money when he left the Home, and he is not asking for anything now, but if he had a few dollars for his railroad fare to the next city, he could walk the rest of the way. Wounded? Well, if I stood out here against the light you could just see through me, that's all. Bullets? It's no use to try to get 'em out. But, sir, I'm not complaining. It had to be done; the country had to be saved; and I'd do it again if it were necessary. Had any hot fights? Sir, I was at Gettysburg! The veteran straightens up, and his eyes flash as if he saw again that sanguinary field. Off goes the citizen's hat. Children, come out here; here is one of the soldiers of Gettysburg! Yes, sir; and this knee—you see I can't bend it much—got stiffened at Chickamauga; and this scratch here in the neck was from a bullet at Gaines Mill; and this here, sir—thumping his chest—you notice I don't dare to cough much —after the explosion of a shell at Petersburg I found myself lying on my-back, and the only one of my squad who was not killed outright. Was it the imagination of the citizen or of the soldier that gave the impression that the hero had been in the forefront of every important action of the war? Well, it doesn't matter much. The citizen was sitting there under his own vine, the comfortable citizen of a free republic, because of the wounds in this cheerful and imaginative old wanderer. There, that is enough, sir, quite enough. I am no beggar. I thought perhaps you had heard of the Ninth Vermont. Woods is my name—Sergeant Woods. I trust some time, sir, I shall be in a position to return the compliment. Good-evening, sir; God bless your honor! and accept the blessing of an old soldier. And the dear old hero goes down the darkening avenue, not so steady of bearing as when he withstood the charge of Pickett on Cemetery Hill, and with the independence of the American citizen who deserves well of his country, makes his way to the nearest hospitable tavern.


To the northward of Hispaniola lies the island of Bimini. It may not be one of the spice islands, but it grows the best ginger to be found in the world. In it is a fair city, and beside the city a lofty mountain, at the foot of which is a noble spring called the 'Fons Juventutis'. This fountain has a sweet savor, as of all manner of spicery, and every hour of the day the water changes its savor and its smell. Whoever drinks of this well will be healed of whatever malady he has, and will seem always young. It is not reported that women and men who drink of this fountain will be always young, but that they will seem so, and probably to themselves, which simply means, in our modern accuracy of language, that they will feel young. This island has never been found. Many voyages have been made in search of it in ships and in the imagination, and Liars have said they have landed on it and drunk of the water, but they never could guide any one else thither. In the credulous centuries when these voyages were made, other islands were discovered, and a continent much more important than Bimini; but these discoveries were a disappointment, because they were not what the adventurers wanted. They did not understand that they had found a new land in which the world should renew its youth and begin a new career. In time the quest was given up, and men regarded it as one of the delusions which came to an end in the sixteenth century. In our day no one has tried to reach Bimini except Heine. Our scientific period has a proper contempt for all such superstitions. We now know that the 'Fons Juventutis' is in every man, and that if actually juvenility cannot be renewed, the advance of age can be arrested and the waste of tissues be prevented, and an uncalculated length of earthly existence be secured, by the injection of some sort of fluid into the system. The right fluid has not yet been discovered by science, but millions of people thought that it had the other day, and now confidently expect it. This credulity has a scientific basis, and has no relation to the old absurd belief in Bimini. We thank goodness that we do not live in a credulous age.

The world would be in a poor case indeed if it had not always before it some ideal or millennial condition, some panacea, some transmutation of base metals into gold, some philosopher's stone, some fountain of youth, some process of turning charcoal into diamonds, some scheme for eliminating evil. But it is worth mentioning that in the historical evolution we have always got better things than we sought or imagined, developments on a much grander scale. History is strewn with the wreck of popular delusions, but always in place of them have come realizations more astonishing than the wildest fancies of the dreamers. Florida was a disappointment as a Bimini, so were the land of the Ohio, the land of the Mississippi, the Dorado of the Pacific coast. But as the illusions, pushed always westward, vanished in the light of common day, lo! a continent gradually emerged, with millions of people animated by conquering ambition of progress in freedom; an industrial continent, covered with a network of steel, heated by steam, and lighted by electricity. What a spectacle of youth on a grand scale is this! Christopher Columbus had not the slightest conception of what he was doing when he touched the button. But we are not satisfied. Quite as far from being so as ever. The popular imagination runs a hard race with any possible natural development. Being in possession of so much, we now expect to travel in the air, to read news in the sending mind before it is sent, to create force without cost, to be transported without time, and to make everybody equal in fortune and happiness to everybody else by act of Congress. Such confidence have we in the power of a "resolution" of the people and by the people that it seems feasible to make women into men, oblivious of the more important and imperative task that will then arise of making men into women. Some of these expectations are only Biminis of the present, but when they have vanished there will be a social and industrial world quite beyond our present conceptions, no doubt. In the article of woman, for instance, she may not become the being that the convention expects, but there may appear a Woman of whom all the Aspasias and Helens were only the faintest types. And although no progress will take the conceit out of men, there may appear a Man so amenable to ordinary reason that he will give up the notion that he can lift himself up by his bootstraps, or make one grain of wheat two by calling it two.

One of the Biminis that have always been looked for is an American Literature. There was an impression that there must be such a thing somewhere on a continent that has everything else. We gave the world tobacco and the potato, perhaps the most important contributions to the content and the fatness of the world made by any new country, and it was a noble ambition to give it new styles of art and literature also. There seems to have been an impression that a literature was something indigenous or ready-made, like any other purely native product, not needing any special period of cultivation or development, and that a nation would be in a mortifying position without one, even before it staked out its cities or built any roads. Captain John Smith, if he had ever settled here and spread himself over the continent, as he was capable of doing, might have taken the contract to furnish one, and we may be sure that he would have left us nothing to desire in that direction. But the vein of romance he opened was not followed up. Other prospectings were made. Holes, so to speak, were dug in New England, and in the middle South, and along the frontier, and such leads were found that again and again the certainty arose that at last the real American ore had been discovered. Meantime a certain process called civilization went on, and certain ideas of breadth entered into our conceptions, and ideas also of the historical development of the expression of thought in the world, and with these a comprehension of what American really is, and the difficulty of putting the contents of a bushel measure into a pint cup. So, while we have been expecting the American Literature to come out from some locality, neat and clean, like a nugget, or, to change the figure, to bloom any day like a century-plant, in one striking, fragrant expression of American life, behold something else has been preparing and maturing, larger and more promising than our early anticipations. In history, in biography, in science, in the essay, in the novel and story, there are coming forth a hundred expressions of the hundred aspects of American life; and they are also sung by the poets in notes as varied as the migrating birds. The birds perhaps have the best of it thus far, but the bird is limited to a small range of performances while he shifts his singing-boughs through the climates of the continent, whereas the poet, though a little inclined to mistake aspiration for inspiration, and vagueness of longing for subtlety, is experimenting in a most hopeful manner. And all these writers, while perhaps not consciously American or consciously seeking to do more than their best in their several ways, are animated by the free spirit of inquiry and expression that belongs to an independent nation, and so our literature is coming to have a stamp of its own that is unlike any other national stamp. And it will have this stamp more authentically and be clearer and stronger as we drop the self-consciousness of the necessity of being American.


Here is June again! It never was more welcome in these Northern latitudes. It seems a pity that such a month cannot be twice as long. It has been the pet of the poets, but it is not spoiled, and is just as full of enchantment as ever. The secret of this is that it is the month of both hope and fruition. It is the girl of eighteen, standing with all her charms on the eve of womanhood, in the dress and temperament of spring. And the beauty of it is that almost every woman is young, if ever she were young, in June. For her the roses bloom, and the red clover. It is a pity the month is so short. It is as full of vigor as of beauty. The energy of the year is not yet spent; indeed, the world is opening on all sides; the school-girl is about to graduate into liberty; and the young man is panting to kick or row his way into female adoration and general notoriety. The young men have made no mistake about the kind of education that is popular with women. The women like prowess and the manly virtues of pluck and endurance. The world has not changed in this respect. It was so with the Greeks; it was so when youth rode in tournaments and unhorsed each other for the love of a lady. June is the knightly month. On many a field of gold and green the heroes will kick their way into fame; and bands of young women, in white, with their diplomas in their hands, star-eyed mathematicians and linguists, will come out to smile upon the victors in that exhibition of strength that women most admire. No, the world is not decaying or losing its juvenility. The motto still is, "Love, and may the best man win!" How jocund and immortal is woman! Now, in a hundred schools and colleges, will stand up the solemn, well-intentioned man before a row of pretty girls, and tell them about Womanhood and its Duties, and they will listen just as shyly as if they were getting news, and needed to be instructed by a man on a subject which has engaged their entire attention since they were five years old. In the light of science and experience the conceit of men is something curious. And in June! the most blossoming, riant, feminine time of the year. The month itself is a liberal education to him who is not insensible to beauty and the strong sweet promise of life. The streams run clear then, as they do not in April; the sky is high and transparent; the world seems so large and fresh and inviting. Our houses, which six months in the year in these latitudes are fortifications of defense, are open now, and the breath of life flows through them. Even over the city the sky is benign, and all the country is a heavenly exhibition. May was sweet and capricious. This is the maidenhood deliciousness of the year. If you were to bisect the heart of a true poet, you would find written therein JUNE.


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