**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

A Common Weakness
by [?]

Governments may change and all the conditions of life be modified, but certain ambitions and needs of man remain immutable. Climates, customs, centuries, have in no way diminished the craving for consideration, the desire to be somebody, to bear some mark indicating to the world that one is not as other men.

For centuries titles supplied the want. This satisfaction has been denied to us, so ambitious souls are obliged to seek other means to feed their vanity.

Even before we were born into the world of nations, an attempt was made amongst the aristocratically minded court surrounding our chief magistrate, to form a society that should (without the name) be the beginning of a class apart.

The order of the Cincinnati was to have been the nucleus of an American nobility. The tendencies of this society are revealed by the fact that primogeniture was its fundamental law. Nothing could have been more opposed to the spirit of the age, nor more at variance with the declaration of our independence, than the insertion of such a clause. This fact was discovered by the far-seeing eye of Washington, and the society was suppressed in the hope (shared by almost all contemporaries) that with new forms of government the nature of man would undergo a transformation and rise above such puerile ambitions.

Time has shown the fallacy of these dreams. All that has been accomplished is the displacement of the objective point; the desire, the mania for a handle to one’s name is as prevalent as ever. Leave the centres of civilization and wander in the small towns and villages of our country. Every other man you meet is introduced as the Colonel or the Judge, and you will do well not to inquire too closely into the matter, nor to ask to see the title-deeds to such distinctions. On the other hand, to omit his prefix in addressing one of these local magnates, would be to offend him deeply. The women-folk were quick to borrow a little of this distinction, and in Washington to-day one is gravely presented to Mrs. Senator Smith or Mrs. Colonel Jones. The climax being reached by one aspiring female who styles herself on her visiting cards, “Mrs. Acting-Assistant-Paymaster Robinson.” If by any chance it should occur to any one to ask her motive in sporting such an unwieldy handle, she would say that she did it “because one can’t be going about explaining that one is not just ordinary Mrs. Robinson or Thompson, like the thousand others in town.” A woman who cannot find an excuse for assuming such a prefix will sometime have recourse to another stratagem, to particularize an ordinary surname. She remembers that her husband, who ever since he was born has been known to everybody as Jim, is the proud possessor of the middle name Ivanhoe, or Pericles (probably the result of a romantic mother’s reading); so one fine day the young couple bloom out as Mr. and Mrs. J. Pericles Sparks, to the amusement of their friends, their own satisfaction, and the hopeless confusion of their tradespeople.

Not long ago a Westerner, who went abroad with a travelling show, was received with enthusiasm in England because it was thought “The Honorable” which preceded his name on his cards implied that although an American he was somehow the son of an earl. As a matter of fact he owed this title to having sat, many years before in the Senate of a far-western State. He will cling to that “Honorable” and print it on his cards while life lasts. I was told the other day of an American carpet warrior who appeared at court function abroad decorated with every college badge, and football medal in his possession, to which he added at the last moment a brass trunk check, to complete the brilliancy of the effect. This latter decoration attracted the attention of the Heir Apparent, who inquired the meaning of the mystic “416” upon it. This would have been a “facer” to any but a true son of Uncle Sam. Nothing daunted, however, our “General” replied “That, Sir, is the number of pitched battles I have won.”