” ‘Meister,’ it appears is a vulgar work; no gentleman, we hear in certain circles, could have written it; few real gentlemen, it is insinuated, can like to read it; no real lady, unless possessed of considerable courage should profess having read it at all!”
And yet “Wilhelm Meister” changed the whole current of European literature–the work was practically committed to memory by the noblest men and women of the world. We hear the venerated Queen of Prussia repeating from it in her cruel exile,
“Wer nie sein Brod mit Thranen ass,
Wer nicht die Kummervollen Nachte
Auf Seinem Bette weinend sass,
Der Kennt euch nicht, ihr himmlischen Machte.”
Let the Philadelphia school board and the Baylorian managers construe it if they can.
“Udi vura udorini udiri cicova cilti mora
Udorini talti hollna u ede caimoni mora”
What? I guess “nit.” The idea of keeping “Les Miserables” away from the ladies!–just as though there could be found in the whole country a sixteen-year-old maid with any pretensions to intelligence who hasn’t wept over little Cosette, been in love with Enjolras and “doted on” Gavroche and Jean Valjean! So ultra nice has the world become that we must skip the Canticles. Shakespeare’s plays must now be clapper-clawed to make them palatable. Alexander Pope’s philosophic rhyme must be deleted with dashes. Walt Whitman’s poetry is too strong for the average stomach. But we continue to fire into the bosoms of our families the daily press with its specialization of Hogan’s Alley and the Yellow Kid, reeking with its burden of ads. of abortion recipes and syphilitic nostrums–even take our wives and daughters to the Tabernacle to be told by Sam Jones that if they don’t think he has backbone he’ll “pull up his shirt-tail and show ’em!” Byron was vigorously denounced by the vindictive Miss Nancys of his day, but scornfully replied:
“I have not loved the world, nor the world me;
I have not flatter’d its rank breath nor bow’d
To its idolatries a patient knee.”
There seems to be nothing left that we may safely read except Watts’ Hymns, Talmage’s sermons and the pathetic story of Mary’s Little Lamb–a promising diet truly, upon which to rear intellectual titans. The remarkable thing about this purist fad is that all the Podsnaps wear pants–the ladies are not on tenter-hooks all the time lest something be said or written that will “bring a blush to the cheek of a young person.” It is the he-virgins, the bearded women who are ever on the watch lest young femininity become impregnated with an idea. This country’s got a bad case of malus pudor–and needs an heroic dose of double-action liver pills.