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I do not claim all glory for the Dutch. It is not given to any one nation to monopolize virtue. I only assert that the Dutchman's virtue is of a peculiarly exalted type. The Englishman's virtue is just as real, only another kind of virtue. If the Dutchman's spirit of hostility or of antagonism resides in his backbone, the Englishman's spirit of hostility or antagonism resides in his breastbone. That makes all the difference between them. The Englishman fights, but he fights aggressively. And as the heart lies back of the breastbone it never gets into his fighting. He neither loves his enemies nor hates them. He simply loves England. If it has been the mission of the Dutch to keep, it has been the mission of the English to get, and in the getting he has had to do a world of fighting.
It comes with ill grace from us, however, to condemn the Englishman when to-day Uncle Sam is standing on the Pacific Slope expanding his chest toward Hawaii. But if we cannot condemn with good grace, there is no need to praise English aggressiveness and acquisitiveness overmuch; what we do need to praise and cultivate is the Dutch virtue of holding fast our own. We have institutions and principles, rights and privileges, in this country which are constantly attacked, and the need of America is that the backbone which the Dutch have given to this country should assert itself. Hospitality loses its virtue when it means the destruction of the Lares and Penates of our own firesides. When a guest insists on sitting at the head of the table, then it is time for the host to become hostis. What America needs in this new year of grace is not less hospitality toward friends but more hostility toward intruders.
The spirit of this age is iconoclastic. It seeks to destroy sacred memorials, hallowed associations, holy shrines, everything that tells of the faith and the worship of a God-fearing past. The spirit of the age is irreverent, destructive, faithless. Against this and all despoiling forces we as patriots are called to arms. For what does America stand? What are the truths that have gone into her blood and made her strong and beautiful and dominant? The divineness of human rights, the claims of men superior to the claims of property; popular government-not an oligarchy; popular government—not a dictatorship; the sacredness of the
home, the holiness of the sanctuary, faith in humanity, faith in God. These have made America, and without these there can be no America. And because they are attacked, gentlemen, the need of the hour is a patriotism that shall breathe forth the spirit of the people who above all others in history have known how to keep their land, their honor, and their faith. The mission of little Holland will never be ended so long as America needs the inspiration of her glorious example, and the devoted citizenship of her loving sons.
OPIE P. READ
(Speech of Opie P. Read at the eighty-second dinner of the Sunset Club, Chicago, IlI., January 31, 1895. The general subject of the evening's discussion was The Tendency and Influence of Modern Fiction." The chairman of the evening, Arthur W. Underwood, said in introducing Mr. Read, “ It is very seldom that the Sunset Club discharges its speakers in batteries of four, but something is due to the speakers. Four barrels is a light load, I am told, for a Kentucky colonel, and I have the pleasure of introducing the original ‘Kentucky Colonel,' Mr. Opie P. Read.”]
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN:—The drift of latterday fiction is largely shown by the department store. The selling of books by the ton proves a return to the extremes of romanticism. People do not jostle one another in their eagerness to secure even a semblance of the truth. The taste of to-day is a strong appetite for fadism; and a novel to be successful must bear the stamp of society rather than the approval of the critic. The reader has gone slumming, and must be shocked in order to be amused. Reviewers tell us of a revolt against realism, that we no longer fawn upon a dull truth, that we crave gauze rather than substance. In fact, realism was never a fad. Truth has never been fashionable; no society takes up philosophy as an amusement.
But after all, popular taste does not make a literature. Strength does not meet with immediate recognition; originality is more often condemned than praised. The intense book often dies with one reading, its story is a wild pigeon of the mind, and sails away to be soon forgotten; but the novel in which there is even one real character, one man of the soil, remains with us as a friend. In the minds of thinking people, realism cannot be supplanted. But by realism, I do not mean the commonplace details of an uninteresting household, nor the hired man with mud on his cowhide boots, nor the whining farmer who sits with his feet on the kitchen-stove, but the glory that we find in nature and the grandeur that we find in man, his bravery, his honor, bis self-sacrifice, his virtue. Realism does not mean the unattractive. A rose is as real as a toad. And a realistic novel of the days of Cæsar would be worth more than Plutarch's Lives.
Every age sees a literary revolution, but out of that revolution there may come no great work of art. The best fiction is the unconscious grace of a cultivated mind, a catching of the quaint humor of men, a soft look of mercy, a sympathetic tear. And this sort of a book may be neglected for years, no busy critic may' speak a word in its behalf, but there comes a time when by the merest accident a great mind finds it and flashes its genius back upon the cloud that has hidden it.
Yes, there is a return to romanticism, if indeed there was ever a turn from it. The well-told story has ever found admirers. To the world all the stories have not been told. The stars show no age, and the sun was as bright yesterday as it was the morning after creation. But a simple story without character is not the highest form of fiction. It is a story that may become a fad, if it be shocking enough, if it has in it the thrill of delicious wickedness, but it cannot live. The literary lion of to-day may be the literary ass of to-morrow, but the ass has his bin full of oats and cannot complain.
One very striking literary tendency of to-day is the worship of the English author in America and the hissing of the American author in London. And this proves that American literature is scarcely more popular in England than it is at home. But may not American publishers after awhile take up a London hissing and use it as an advertisement. Hissing is surely a recognition, and proves that an author has not been wholly neglected.
The novel, whether it be of classic form or of faddish type, makes a mark upon the mind of the public. Fiction is a necessary element of modern education. A man may
be a successful physician or a noted lawyer without having read a novel; but he could not be regarded as a man of refined culture. A novel is an intellectual luxury, and in the luxuries of a country we find the refinements of the nation. It was not invention but fancy that made Greece great. A novel-reading nation is a progressive nation. At one time the most successful publication in this country was a weekly paper filled with graceless sensationalism, and it was not the pulpit nor the lecture-platform that took hold of the public taste and lifted it above this trash-it was the publication in cheap form of the English classics. And when the mind of the masses had been thus improved, the magazine became a success.
One slow but unmistakable drift of fiction is toward the short story, and the carefully edited newspaper may hold the fiction of the future.