Occasionally, very occasionally, there is found among reviewers the type of old-fashioned person who used to be called a “man of letters.” This is a wild dream, but it would be a grand thing for American reviewing if every one of our young reviewers could have for an hour each week the moral benefit of the society of such a man. I know one who now has been active in New York literary journalism for something like thirty years—a fine intellectual figure of a man. He makes his living out of this, indeed, but his interest is in the thing itself, in literature. He has all that one really needs in the world, he has the esteem of the most estimable people, and he follows with unceasing pleasure a delightful occupation. He is as keen to-day, he declares, on the “right way of putting three words together” as he was when he began to write. His mellow, witty, and gentlemanly style is saturated with the sounds, scents and colours of literature. The exercise of his cultivated judgment is not a trade, but a sacred trust. To look at him and to think of his admirable career is to realise the dignity of his calling—discussing with authority the books of the world as they come from the press.
LITERARY LEVITIES IN LONDOW
Now it’s a funny thing, that, come to think of it. Some folks have questioned whether, the other way round, it could be done in this country at all. It’s a pleasant view anyhow that the matter presents of that curious affair the English character.
There is a notion knocking about over here that considerable rigmarole is required to meet an Englishman. And very probably few who have tried it would dispute that it is somewhat difficult to “meet” an ordinary Englishman to whom you are not known in a railway carriage. With the big ’uns, however, the business appears to be simple enough. Foolish doings do clutter up one’s luggage with letters of introduction when all that is needed to board round with the most celebrated people in England is a glance at a “Who’s Who” in a public library to get addresses.
For the purpose of convenience the writer of these souvenirs will refer to himself as “I” and “me.” I was all done up in health and was advised by doctors to clear out at once. So I bought a steamship ticket, packed a kit bag, crossed the water and took a couple of strolls about that island over there; when, feeling fitter, I turned up in London for a look about.
It sort of came over me that in my haste of departure I had neglected to bring any of my friends along, or to equip myself with the means of making others here. I was unarmed, so to say—a “Yank” in an obviously hostile country. This, you see, was before the war, before we and Britain had got so genuinely sweet on one another.
At that time I had two acquaintances resident in London. One, a Bostonian, whose attention was quite occupied with a new addition to his family; the other was the errand man stationed before my place of abode. He was an amiable soul, whose companionable nature, worldly wisdom and topographical knowledge I much appreciated. He instructed me in the culinary subject of “bubble and squeak” and many other learned matters; but unfortunately his social connections were limited to one class.