Baltimore Evening Sun (20 December 1911): 6.


Only 1,245 days more! But time enough to fill the harbor with tomato cans, to erect 900 belching factories upon them and to drive 25 tunnels under them! Vorwaerts!

The cost of running the State of Maryland last year was $5,133,736, or about $4 per capita of population. Of this sum Baltimore’s fair share, considering her taxable basis, was $3,006,546. But Baltimore really paid $4,082,183, or more than $7 per capita. The fair share of the counties was $2,177,190, but they really paid only $1,101,553, or $1.50 per capita. Baltimore, $7; the counties, $1.50! Laugh, suckers, laugh!

Why not proceedings against the Honorary Pallbearers’ Association in the Federal courts, under the Sherman Anti-Trust act, for its effort to monopolise all the buncombe in Baltimore?

The principal objects and duties of the municipal boards:

Board of Public Improvements--To oppose and nullify the nefarious stupidity of the City Council. Park Board--To ditto and ditto the ditto of the ditto.

The shops are full of so-called Christmas books--Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” in mauve chamois; the Rubaiyat in 50 different editions, all hideous: the sonnets of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in covers stuffed like sofa pillows; “comic” almanacs full of bad jokes clipped out of Puck and Judge; the works of Bulwer-Lytton, James Whitcomb Riley and Epictetus; absurd books of travel with chromo illustrations. Why do people buy such literary garbage? And, having bought it, why do they give it to their friends at Christmas? Certainly, if a good book is the greatest of gifts, a bad book is the worvt–and every book is bad, whatever its contents, that is vulgarly illustrated and indecently bound.

Imagine Mrs. Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese in stuffed covers--stuffed and ovoid, like the cheeks of a fat baby--and of a hue approaching that of a wine-bibber’s nose. And yet I have seen the thing. What is worse, I have received it as a present--not this year, but years back. In the full flower, at that time, of my youth and innocence, I preserved it for fully twenty-four hours. Then the ash can--and a bath. Today I’d call the smallpox wagon--and commit suicide.

The pity is that many of the unfortunates who receive such ghastly gifts at Christmas have too much delicacy to destroy them. Instead they are piled upon “library” tables and there live out their virginal, moth-eaten lives. No one, I am convinced, ever reads them. Who, loving “The Ballad of East and West,” could bring himself to read it upon shining, pink paper, with fleur-de-lis border decorations and a green baize cover? And who, loving “The Ballad of East and West,” wants it as a present? Hasn’t he got it already? And if he hasn’t, doesn’t he know it by heart?

Here we come upon the real objection to these ridiculous gift books. Besides being hideous--besides offending the eye with their abominable colors and unearthly paddings--they are entirely useless. The man who knows and loves books doesn’t want them, and the man who doesn’t love books has no use for them. Their one function is to stand upon a table and accumulate dust. They pass away at last in house-cleaninig season. A cover has worked loose. Out it goes! The infant has gnawed a maroon “Virginibus Puerisque” and suffers vastly from abdominal malaise. To the ash-can!

Whe force such stuff upon helpless friends? If you want to give them books, why not give them good books–or at least decent books? Especially books they have probably not read. The cost need not be high. A good novel costs but $1.25 or so. A new book of criticism seldom costs more than $2. And such books have the advantage that, once they are read, they can be quietly passed on. Of no pretensions as works of “art,” they do not demand exhibition. If they are liked, they may be kept a month; if they are loved, they may be kept a lifetime--but if they are neither loved nor liked, they may go into the discard at once.

Easy advice--but what novels? How is the buyer to tell the good from the bad--how without reading scores? Behold, I jump into the breach in the hope that it is not too late. Here, then, are seven novels and books of short stories, all recent and all worth reading:

“Under Western Eyes,” by Joseph Conrad. “The Indian Lily,” by Hermann Sudermann. “Jennie Gerhardt,” by Theodore Dreiser. “The Gods and Mr. Perrin,” by Hugh Walpole. “A Bed of Roses,” by W. L. George. “The Man Who Understood Women,” by Leonard Merrick. “Abe and Mawruss,” by Montague Glass.

Of the seven, the best, perhaps, for Christmas is “The Gods and Mr. Perrin,” a keen psychological study but with the breath of romance blowing through it–a book certain to interest both sexes and all ages between 18 and 60. And next after it comes “The Man Who Understood Women,” a book of 16 or more short stories of delightful grace and humor. These are safe books to give to anyone who can read English--your old Aunt Marie, your Cousin Adolf or your niece Miranda. They are amusing and they are pure--a combination not often found encountered in this saline world.

“Jennie Gerhardt” and “A Bed of Roses” deal with ladies whose morality, as it were, is in a fluent condition, and so they are not for sucklings. But the first is an arresting work of art, and the second, for all its faults, has keen observation in it and more than a little good writing. “The Indian Lily” shows Sudermann at his best. Two of the short stories in this book, “The Purpose” and “The Song of Death,” are worth a trainload of best-sellers. And the Conrad book is–well, a Conrad book. Conrad divides all readers into two classes–those who think he is dull and those who know better. Here he is in Russia, in the midst of spies and dynamiters. A strangely impressive book. A rarely incisive study of exotic character.

Of “Abe and Mawruss” I say nothing. But, in conclusion, I venture to offer a Sheffield razor, especially designed for throat cutting, to any man or woman who will make oath that he or she does not find it uproariously funny.

The latest journalistic euphuism for “saloon-keepers”:

Those interested in the liquor business.

This from the Sunpaper of today. A noticeable improvement upon “restaurateurs,” for while it is longer and clumsier, it is at least better English.