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The Moth And The Star
by [?]

It is but human nature to delight in reading of these things. Here the great mass of the people find (and eagerly seize on), the element of romance lacking in their lives, infinitely more enthralling than the doings of any novel’s heroine. It is real! It is taking place! and–still deeper reason–in every ambitious American heart lingers the secret hope that with luck and good management they too may do those very things, or at least that their children will enjoy the fortunes they have gained, in just those ways. The gloom of the monotonous present is brightened, the patient toiler returns to his desk with something definite before him–an objective point–towards which he can struggle; he knows that this is no impossible dream. Dozens have succeeded and prove to him what energy and enterprise can accomplish.

Do not laugh at this suggestion; it is far truer than you imagine. Many a weary woman has turned from such reading to her narrow duties, feeling that life is not all work, and with renewed hope in the possibilities of the future.

Doubtless a certain amount of purely idle curiosity is mingled with the other feelings. I remember quite well showing our city sights to a bored party of Western friends, and failing entirely to amuse them, when, happening to mention as we drove up town, “there goes Mr. Blank,” (naming a prominent leader of cotillions), my guests nearly fell over each other and out of the carriage in their eagerness to see the gentleman of whom they had read so much, and who was, in those days, a power in his way, and several times after they expressed the greatest satisfaction at having seen him.

I have found, with rare exceptions, and the experience has been rather widely gathered all over the country, that this interest–or call it what you will–has been entirely without spite or bitterness, rather the delight of a child in a fairy story. For people are rarely envious of things far removed from their grasp. You will find that a woman who is bitter because her neighbor has a girl “help” or a more comfortable cottage, rarely feels envy towards the owners of opera-boxes or yachts. Such heart-burnings (let us hope they are few) are among a class born in the shadow of great wealth, and bred up with tastes that they can neither relinquish nor satisfy. The large majority of people show only a good- natured inclination to chaff, none of the “class feeling” which certain papers and certain politicians try to excite. Outside of the large cities with their foreign-bred, semi-anarchistic populations, the tone is perfectly friendly; for the simple reason that it never entered into the head of any American to imagine that there was any class difference. To him his rich neighbors are simply his lucky neighbors, almost his relations, who, starting from a common stock, have been able to “get there” sooner than he has done. So he wishes them luck on the voyage in which he expects to join them as soon as he has had time to make a fortune.

So long as the world exists, or at least until we have reformed it and adopted Mr. Bellamy’s delightful scheme of existence as described in “Looking Backward,” great fortunes will be made, and painful contrasts be seen, especially in cities, and it would seem to be the duty of the press to soften–certainly not to sharpen–the edge of discontent. As long as human nature is human nature, and the poor care to read of the doings of the more fortunate, by all means give them the reading they enjoy and demand, but let it be written in a kindly spirit so that it may be a cultivation as well as a recreation. Treat this perfectly natural and honest taste honestly and naturally, for, after all, it is

The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow.
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow.