Our village is remarkable. It contains the greatest publisher in the world, the most notable department store baron (and inventor of that new form of literary essay, the department store ad.), the most fragrant gas tanks in the Department of the East, the greatest number of cinders per eye of any arondissement served by the R—- railway, and the most bitterly afflicted hay fever sufferer on this sneezing sphere. Also the editor of the most widely circulated magazine in the world, and the author of one of the best selling books that ever was written.
Not bad for one village.
Your first thought is Northampton, Mass., but you are wrong. That is where Gerald Stanley Lee lives. For a stamped, addressed envelope I will give you the name of our village, and instructions for avoiding it. It is bounded on the north by goldenrod, on the south by ragweed, on the east by asthma and the pollen of anemophylous plants.
It is bounded on the west by a gray stone facsimile of Windsor Castle, confirmed with butlers, buttresses, bastions, ramparts, repartees, feudal tenures, moats, drawbridges, posterns, pasterns, chevaux de frise, machicolated battlements, donjons, loopholes, machine-gun emplacements, caltrops, portcullises, glacis, and all the other travaux de fantaisie that make life worth living for retired manufacturers. The general effect is emetic in the extreme. Hard by the castle is a spurious and richly gabled stable in the general style of the chateau de Chantilly. One brief strip of lawn constitutes a gulf of five hundred years in architecture, and restrains Runnymede from Versailles.
Our village is famous for beautiful gardens. At five o’clock merchants and gens de lettres return home from office and tannery, remove the cinders, and commune with vervain and bergamot. The countryside is as lovely as Devonshire, equipped with sky, trees, rolling terrain, stewed terrapin, golf meads, nut sundaes, beagles, spare tires, and other props. But we are equally infamous for hideous houses, of the Chester A. Arthur era. Every prospect pleases, and man alone is vile.
There is a large, expensive school for flappers, on a hill; and a drugstore or pharmacy where the flappers come to blow off steam. It would be worth ten thousand dollars to Beatrice Herford to ambush herself behind the Welch’s grape juice life-size cut-out, and takes notes on flapperiana. Pond Lyceum Bureau please copy.
Our village was once famous also as the dwelling place of an eminent parson, who obtained a million signatures for a petition to N. Romanoff, asking the abolition of knouting of women in Siberia. And now N. Romanoff himself is gone to Siberia, and there is no knouting or giving in knoutage; no pogroms or ukases or any other check on the ladies. Knitting instead of knouting is the order of the day.
Knoutings for flappers, say I, after returning from the pharmacy or drugstore.
Dr. Anna Howard Shaw does not live here, but she is within a day’s journey on the Cinder and Bloodshot.
But I was speaking of hay fever. “Although not dangerous to life,” say Drs. S. Oppenheimer and Mark Gottlieb, “it causes at certain times such extreme discomfort to some of its victims as to unfit them for their ordinary pursuits. If we accept the view that it is a disease of the classes rather than the masses we may take the viewpoint of self-congratulation rather than of humiliation as indicating a superiority in culture and civilization of the favoured few. When the intimate connection of pollinosis and culture has been firmly grasped by the public mind, the complaint will perhaps come to be looked upon like gout, as a sign of breeding. It will be assumed by those who have it not…. As civilization and culture advance, other diseases analogous to the one under consideration may be developed from oversensitiveness to sound, colour, or form, and the man of the twenty-first or twenty-second century may be a being of pure intellect whose organization of mere nervous pulp would be shattered by a strong emotion, like a pumpkin filled with dynamite.” (vide “Pollen Therapy in Pollinosis,” reprinted from the Medical Record, March 18, 1916; and many thanks to Mr. H.L. Mencken, fellow sufferer, for sending me a copy of this noble pamphlet. I hope to live to grasp Drs. Oppenheimer and Gottlieb by the hand. Their essay is marked by a wit and learning that proves them fellow-orgiasts in this hypercultivated affliction of the cognoscenti.)