As We Were Saying

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Harper & brothers, 1891 - American essays - 219 pages
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1891. Contents: Rose Chrysanthemum; The Red Bonnet; The Loss in Civilization; Social Screaming; Does Refinement Kill Individuality?; The Directoire Gown; The Mystery of the Sex; The Clothes of Fiction; The Broad A; Chewing Gum; Women in Congress; Shall Women Propose?; Frocks and the Stage; Altruism; Social Clearing-House; The Dinner-Table Talk; Naturalization; Art of Governing; Love of Display; Value of the Commonplace; The Burden of Christmas; The Responsibility of Writers; The Cap and Gown; A Tendency of the Age; and A Locoed Novelist.
 

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Page 31 - ... but it would not be fashionable, and it would not strike the prevailing note of our civilization. If it were true that a group of women all like to talk at the same time when they meet (which is a slander invented by men, who may be just as loquacious, but not so limber-tongued and quick-witted), and raise their voices to a shriek in order to dominate each other, it could be demonstrated that they would be more readily heard if they all spoke in low tones. But the object is not conversation;...
Page 29 - ... on account of the low, heavenly pitch of his voice. His inference would be that these people had been selected to come together by reason of their superior power of screaming. He would be wrong. They are selected on account of their intelligence, agreeableness, and power of entertaining each other. They come together, not for exercise, but pleasure, and the more they crowd and jam and struggle, and the louder they scream, the greater the pleasure. It is a kind of contest, full of good-humor and...
Page 121 - ... interposition of fiction. But the conduct of the novelists and the painters makes the task of the conservators of society doubly perplexing. Neither the writers nor the artists have a due sense of the responsibilities of their creations. The trouble appears to arise from the imitativeness of the race. Nature herself seems readily to fall into imitation. It was noticed by the friends of nature that when the peculiar coal-tar colors were discovered, the same faded, aesthetic, and sometimes sickly...
Page 102 - ... perhaps his taste is not yet equal to his means, but there is no question of his adaptability to the sort of display which is so pleasing to the greater part of the human race, and which contributes so much to the brightness and cheerfulness of this world. We cannot all have decorations, and cannot all wear uniforms, or even regalia, and some of us have little time for going about in military or civic processions, but we all like to have our streets put on a holiday appearance ; and we cannot...
Page 66 - Ism — r', for example. External trouble is piled on to the internal. The characters are in a perpetual soak. There is not a dry rag on any of them, from the beginning of the book to the end. They are sent out in all weathers, and are drenched every day. Often their wet clothes are frozen on them ; they are exposed to cutting winds and sleet in their faces, bedrabbled in damp grass, stood against slippery fences, with hail and frost lowering their vitality, and expected under these circumstances...
Page 99 - ... heat and the dust, conscious only of doing his duty. We make a great mistake if we suppose it is a feeling of ferocity that sets these men tramping about in gorgeous uniform, in mud or dust, in rain or under a broiling sun. They have no desire to kill anybody. Out of these resplendent clothes they are much like other people; only they have a nobler spirit, that which leads them to endure hardships for the sake of pleasing others. They differ in degree, though not in kind, from those orders, for...
Page 73 - ... that the people who would like to talk together are not neighbors; and if they are, they exhaust each other to weariness in an hour, at least of topics which can be talked about with the risk of being overheard. A duet to be agreeable must be to a certain extent confidential, and the dinner-table duet admits of little except generalities, and generalities between two have their limits of entertainment. Then there is the awful possibility that the neighbors at table may have nothing to say to...
Page 134 - They help the mind in its effort to set itself apart to unworldly pursuits; they are indications of separateness from the prevailing fashions and frivolities. The girl who puts on the cap and gown devotes herself to the society which is avowedly in pursuit of a larger intellectual sympathy and a wider intellectual life. The enduring of this habit will have a confirming influence on her purposes, and help to keep her up to them. It is like the uniform to the soldier or the veil to the nun — a sign...
Page 30 - ... in order that an announcement of music could be made, in the awful hush that followed people spoke to each other in their natural voices, and everybody could be heard without effort. But this was not the object of the Reception, and in a moment more the screaming would begin again, the voices going higher and higher, until, if the roof were taken off, one vast shriek would go up to heaven. This is not only a fashion, it is an art. People have to train for it, and as it is a unique amusement,...
Page 135 - In the cap and gown •97 the girl will at least feel that she is in the line of the traditions of pure learning. And there is also something of order and discipline in the uniforming of a community set apart for an unworldly purpose. Is it believed that three or four years of the kind of separateness marked by this habit in the life of a girl will rob her of any desirable womanly quality ? The cap and gown are only an emphasis of the purpose to devote a certain period to the higher life, and if...

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