Sunday, September 30, 2007

'Springfield Present and Prospective, Art and Literature' (Pond & Campbell 1905)

Here is the final segment of the section, 'Springfield on the Side of Letters,' of the chapter, 'Art and Literature,' from the book 'Springfield Present and Prospective,' published in 1905 by Pond & Campbell publishers. Charles Goodrich Whiting is the segment's author.

Title/contents page

Art and Literature (previous segment)

Art and Literature (cont.)

Among the authors native to Springfield especially noteworthy was the late David Ames Wells, grandson of Col. David Ames, whose fame as political economist, statistician and sociologist is more than national. He was both born and bred here, and never lost touch with his birthplace. His son, David Dwight Wells, was born in Norwich, Ct.; his untimely death cut short a career as novelist of unusual promise. Also born in the town, and still resident here, is an author of rare and beautiful gifts, both literary and spiritual. George Spring Merriam, in his "Life and Times of Samuel Bowles," produced one of the few absolutely truthful of personal biographies, linked to the story of the nation. His distinctive writings have chiefly concerned the life of the soul, from the volume entitled "A Living Faith," through that finer treatise, "The Way of Life," the chronicle of "William and Lucy Smith" (honoring the author of "Thorndale" as he deserved), the personal memoir of Mrs. Briggs and the choice anthology entitled "A Symphony of the Spirit." To these he has lately added "The Story of Slavery in America" - an admirable survey of the striking moral advance of the nation to the ending of human chattelry, wrought with optimistic view of the future.

There have been many clever writers of fiction, of whom note must be made of Adeline Trafton (Mrs. Samuel Knox), who wrote here "His Inheritance," "Katherine Earle," and other novels and records; and of Mrs. Katharine B. Foot, whose excellent short stories, "Tilda," "Marcia's Fortunes," "An Orphan in Japan," and others are to be published in a volume. Edward Bellamy, son of Rufus K. Bellamy, a noted minister of Chicopee Falls, here wrote, besides many exquisite short stories in the school of Hawthorne, that extraordinary book, "Looking Backward," which gave so great an impetus to the gospel of socialism by its Utopia, the Boston of the year 2000. His brother, Charles J. Bellamy, is the author of certain interesting novels and other books, "The Breton Mills," "A Man of Business" and "The Return of the Fairies."

Poetry of genuine quality has not been lacking in the contributions to the newspapers and magazines, here and elsewhere, from Springfield citizens, but to begin to name the writers of these, or of sketches and tales, would be a rash essay. If there be mention made of Aella Greene, Christopher C. Merritt and Mrs. Frances H. Cooke, that will have to be the end.

Much worthy historical writing has been done, by George Bliss, the first and second; by Judge Oliver B. Morris and Judge Henry Morris his son; by Col. John L. Rice and Judge Alfred M. Copeland, and by Judge William Steele Shurtleff. Colonel Shurtleff indeed had a marked literary bent and taste, and wrote much verse of refined and fluent grace, while he personally encouraged the life of letters and arts. Several veterans of the civil war have written regimental histories of value, among them James L. Bowen, W. P. Derby and J. K. Newell. Mason A. Green wrote a history of Springfield in connection with the 250th anniversary in 1886, and Charles A. Nichols published it. Mr. Green's study of the early history of the town, and into the first part of the 19th century, is valuable and full of attractive quality. But to simply name the books that have been produced in Springfield - well worthy of comment as well as mention - would require more than our limit of space.

One of the interesting and individual figures of our local life for years has been Eugene C. Gardner, whose essay on Springfield as it is and may be begins this book. He was one of the first to make literature out of house-building, and with that, of housekeeping. The fresh, vigorous and cordial impact of his early books on these subjects, treated at once from the architect's and the householder's standpoint, is not forgotten. And ever since he began with the chronicles of "John" - in fact, of "Jack and Jill," - he has been writing delightful critiques on everything pertaining to Springfield. His books are numerous; they include "Homes and How to Make Them," "Illustrated Homes," "Home Interiors," "The House that Jill Built," "Town and Country Schoolhouses," "Common Sense in Church Building." Mr. Gardner is a satirist and a humorist, with a poetic feeling.

Among writers of consequence in Springfield is Franklin H. Giddings of the Berkshire family, professor of sociology at Columbia university since 1894, and before that at Bryn Mawr college, whither he went out of Springfield journalism. His books are well known, and his position among economic thinkers is notable for a scholarly socialism. He has written many books, and his "Principles of Sociology," published in New York in 1896, has been translated into many languages, including the Japanese.

Bradley Gilman, for some years minister of the Church of the Unity, begun here as author, and wrote seven or eight volumes, some for children, but the principal ones - "The Parsonage Porch," "Back to the Soil" (a new Utopia), and "Ronald Carnaquay: a Commercial Clergyman," for the larger audience. A predecessor, in fact, the original Unitarian minister in the town, Rev. W. B. O. Peabody, a beautiful soul, wrote many hymns, among them, "Behold, the Western Evening Light." To him also was due the cemetery where he is buried and which ought to bear his name. Washington Gladden, when pastor of the North church in this city, wrote several of his books, but not his important ones, - nevertheless, he belongs in the affection of the people to Springfield. James F. Merriam has written many charming articles of literary criticism and appreciation that deserve remembrance. Lately Gerald Stanley Lee, also a preacher, has turned author, and by his clever, fantastic and witful genius has drawn attention. Miss Mary Louise Dunbar has written graphic and happy sketches of European experience. Mary Catherine Lee has produced excellent fiction in a richly sympathetic rendering of characteristic life. Miss Maude Gillette Phillips years ago made an excellent manual of English literature, and has since written much for reviews and otherwise. Charles Clark Munn, author of "Pocket Island," "Uncle Terry" and other stories, has touched the "Old Homestead" vein of rustic wit and pathos successfully, and has won a public of his own. But it is impossible to complete with perfect justice the list of literary work done in the city and its neighborhood in these later years.

It should be mentioned that among the books drawn from the files of the Republican, which would in themselves necessitate pages of titles, is to be noted "Mexico of Today," by Solomon Bulkley Griffin, - the result of travel in that country in 1885. It should also be said that Charles Goodrich Whiting's two books of Nature and the Spirit, "The Saunterer" and "Walks in New England," are made up chiefly from the editorial and literary columns of the Republican. In the later years many remarkable contributions have been made to true literature by such contributors as the north of Ireland singer, Moses Teggart; and the noble poet, Stuart Sterne, whose name in common life was Bertrude Bloede. And in the line of scientific philosophy there are seldom to be found so remarkable and masterly writings as those of Dr. Chester T. Stockwell, "The Evolution of Immortality" and "New Methods of Thought." These are leading the way to spiritual examination and ideal of eternal spiritual life. There is no nobler utterance in this direction to be found in American or English literature.

Springfield has had its literary periodicals, and among them there are three which for one cause or another require especial mention. The first of these was Sunday Afternoon, begun by Rev. Washington Gladden, when he was pastor of the North church, and continued by Edward F. Merriam. It was an original scheme of sociologic thought which animated it, and much of the high quality in the furtherance of elevated ideals was embodied in its editorial conduct and its contributions. Conceptions of service to humanity then freshly broached had voice in Sunday Afternoon; Mrs. Clara T. Leonard gave to it some of the most important of her too few writings, and indeed the table of contents, were it to be reprinted, would show that there was not a little opportunity afforded for the literary life of this city, if there were such, to exhibit itself.

The brief career of Sunday Afternoon found no following until Will Bradley came here, a really brilliant designer of strange grotesqueries, akin in one way to that abnormal creature, Aubrey Beardsley, who became a London favorite, but unlike Beardsley merely grotesque, not vile. Bradley had good magazine ideas, and while "Will Bradley: His Book," in its brief existence, failed of success, it produced a real sensation. Its literary features, under the editorial charge of Julia D. Whiting, possessed originality and a high intellectual poise, but life was not in it.

The present magazine, Good Housekeeping, has passed through vicissitudes; Clark W. Bryan made it interesting for a while; others assumed its management; but now, published by the Phelps company, and edited by James E. Tower, with his fine literary taste, it is an excellent magazine of the household.

Among the remarkable men who have distinguished the Springfield Republican should be mentioned two who possess in common an incisive and trenchant personal power of expression on all topics which they touched, - the late William S. Robinson, "Warrington," who chose that pen name from the friend of "Pendennis" in Thackeray's novel, - a strenuous character; and Frank B. Sanborn, Boston literary and political correspondent for many years, - a radical of the radicals, a man who, in Hosea Biglow's words, "ain't afeard." He has given salt and spice to life by his commentary on affairs, while his great scholarly equipment has constantly enriched the criticism of that journal for over thirty years.

Charles Goodrich Whiting

Next installment: 'City Library Association.'

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