Baltimore Evening Sun (14 October 1912): 6.
The Archangel Harry, who has murdered the Sunpaper no less than 17 times since the Spring of 1911, did the job all over again before the City Club on Saturday. The Sunpaper, said Harry, is against the sewer rental plan because its adoption would lay a burden upon the suburban property of the Abell family. A Voice: “But wouldn’t its adoption also take a burden off the downtown property of the Abell family?” Harry: “Scoundrel! Ganov! Schlemiel!”
Incidentally, this matter of the ownership of the Sunpaper is the honorable gentleman’s favorite subject of unconscious comedy. In his last message to the jobhounds he argued that the Sunpaper was a rogue because the Abells no longer controlled it. Now he argues that it is a rogue because the Abells do control it. Such a logician makes Aristotle seem a prince of asses. Saving only the Hon. Aristides Sophocles Goldsborough, his famous pupil, no man of modern times has performed with greater feeling or a surer technique upon the contra-syllogism, the huge slush-horn in B flat.
The Hon. Carter H. Harrison, Mayor of Chicago, in which city huge packs of vicehounds have been at large for a year or more:
I would like to see the city cleaned up, but I, for one, believe that it is much bctter to have restricted vice than to drive the persons who haunt the districts into our residential neighborhoods. It has never been proved that the places can be abolished. In London you can’t walk a block in the business district without being accosted by women. It’s the same on Broadway, New York.
But in Baltimore, it appears, there is no man of authority with courage enough to speak out so boldly. We must suffer the virtuous doings of the Vice Crusaders, those self-confessed messiahs. We must have prostitution treated as an osteopath treats a tubercular joint--by scattering the infection to all parts of the body.
It would be interesting to get from the State Board of Health some explanation of its delay in issuing its report for 1910. The preface to that report, signed by Dr. William H. Welch, the president, is dated September 5, 1912, but it was not until a few days ago that the document reached The Evening Sun. Why did it take the learned doctors 20 months to put their observations on paper. Of what value is a health report nearly two years old? The City Health Department is bad enough: with 1912 three-fourths gone, it has still to issue its report for 1911. But why should the State Board of Health take a whole year more? Would Dr. Welch tolerate such shilly-shallying at the Johns Hopkins Medical School?
No doubt the gentlemen who composed the report shed many large globules of perspiration over its preparation, and had to stop frequently to take air and spit upon their hands, but most of that labor of love, I fear, was in vain. That is to say, the report, in large part, is scarcely worth reading, now that it has come from the press at last. It would be difficult, indeed, to imagine a more ridiculous accumulation of useless data. Page after page is filled with dubious and meaningless statistics--for example, tables of fecundity based upon admittedly incomplete birth returns--for example, estimates of survivorship from 1915 to 1990.
What is worse,. most of the genuinely valuable reports are drowned in parts of speech. A sophomoric essay on statistics leads the chapter on vital statistics. The reports of the county health officers are incomplete and chaotic. Four pages about an infected dairy, laying the blame upon a typhoid carrier, conclude with the news that the carrier died nearly twd years ago. The reports of town surveys are turgid and endless. In one we are informed that Baltimore is “the metropolis of Maryland” and that “mosquitoes and other insects are known to carry diseases.” In this same report the name of the town, time after time, is followed solemnly by the name of the county. A paragraph on the ice supply is followed by a second paragraph upon the only ice-plant–two paragraphs in place of one. Numbers written out are followed. uselessly by the numerals in parentheses. Over and over again I find such senseless repetitions as this:
Again, I desire to advocate the abolition of the surface toilets. Surface toilets should be abolished.
Not that the report, as a whole, is without value. It contains valuable vital statistics. It includes an excellent monograph on a disinfection with formaldehyde. It reveals, on the literary side, at least, an incandescent ardor (though the prosecutions reported number but four!). But why pay for a 418-page tome and wait nearly two years for it when a volume of 100 pages, printed in six weeks, would give them the whole of its useful substance? I suppose that this book cost at least $1,000. Why waste so much every year? Why not spend half of it for typhoid vaccine, or for the prosecution of quack doctors?
The endless combat of the platitudinarians:
- Platitudes are as natural to the genus homo as love letters or baby talk.--The Hon. Mr. Wegg, the Belair Aquinas.
- It is possible that any life may end in tragedy.--The Rev. Dr. Polemus H. Swift.
In today’s Letter Column the Hon. Mr. Wegg, who got honorable mention last week for a very fair second-rate platitude, accuses me (a) of misquoting him, and (b) of discharging frequent platitudes myself. I admit both charges. In my quotation from him I credited this one to him:
Human nature, like the poor, is always with us.
As a matter of fact, what he actually said (in the Sunpaper of Monday, October 7) was this:
human nature, * * * like the poor is ever with us.
How I came to change “ever” into “always” I don’t know. Lay it to the delirium following a half hour’s reading of the Hot Towel, that glory of clean journalism. But whatever the cause, I indubitably done the deed, and so I apologize to the Hon. Mr. Wegg, and at the same time beg him to explain the exact difference between “ever” and “always.”
As for my own use of platitudes, all I venture to say to that many in my stock are far worse than those quoted by Wegg. For example:
- The super-Mahon is his own punishment.
- Virtue is the will without the deed.
- An anti-vivisectionist is one who gags at a guinea pig and swallows a baby.
These are prime platitudes, for they not only state obvious facts, but also do it with a specious appearance of originality. But certainly, dear Wegg, you would not have me award prizes to myself! Such an act would be a clear violation of the rules of the contest, and also of the laws of common decency.