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at that American servants have different manners from their brethren in other countries? When foreigners find that American servants are not like servants in their own country, they should not resent their behavior; it does not denote disrespect; it is only the outcrop of their natural independence and aspirations.
All titles of nobility are by the Constitution expressly forbidden. Even titles of honor or courtesy are but rarely used. "Honorable" is used to designate members of Congress; and for a few Americans, such as the President and the ambassadors, the title “Excellency" is permitted. Yet, whether it is because the persons entitled to be so addressed do not think that even these mild titles are consistent with American democracy, or because the American public feels awkward in employing such stilted terms of address, they are not often used. I remember that on one occasion a much respected Chief Executive, on my proposing, in accordance with diplomatic usage and precedent, to address him as “Your Excellency," begged me
begged me to substitute instead "Mr. President." The plain democratic "Mr." suits the democratic American taste much better than any other title, and is applied equally to the President of the Republic and to his coachman. Indeed, the plain name John Smith, without even "Mr.," not only gives no offense, where some higher title might be employed, but fits just as well, and is in fact often used. Even prominent and distinguished men do not resent nicknames; for example, the celebrated person whose name is so intimately connected with that delight of American children and grown-ups, the "Teddy bear.” This characteristic, like so many other American characteristics, is due not only to the love of equality and independence, but also to the dislike of any waste of time.
In countries where there are elaborate rules of etiquette concerning titles and forms of address, none but a master of ceremonies can hope to be thoroughly familiar with them, or to be able to address the distinguished people without withholding from them their due share of high-sounding titles and epithets; and, be it whispered, these same distinguished people, however broad-minded and magnanimous they may be in other respects, are sometimes extremely sensitive in this respect And even after one has mastered all the rules and forms, and can appreciate and distinguish the various nice shades which exist between “His Serene Highness," “His Highness," "His Royal Highness," and "His Imperial Highness," or between "Rt. Rev.” and “Most Rev.," one has yet to learn what titles a particular person has, and with what particular form of address he should be approached, an impossible task even for a master of ceremonies, unless he always has in his pocket a Burke's Peerage to tell him who's who. What a waste of time, what an inconvenience, and what an unnecessary amount of irritation and annoyance all this causes. How much better to be able to address any person you meet simply as Mr. So-and-so, without unwittingly treading on somebody's sensitive corns ! Americans have shown their common sense in doing away with titles altogether, an example which the sister Republic of China is following. An illustrious name loses nothing for having to stand by itself without prefixes and suffixes, handles and tails. Mr. Gladstone was no less himself for not prefixing his name with Earl, and the other titles to which it would have entitled him, as he could have done had he not declined the so-called honor. Indeed, like the "Great Commoner," he, if that were possible, endeared himself the more to his countrymen because of his refusal. A name, which is great without resorting to the borrowed light of titles and honors, is greater than any possible suffix or affix which could be appended to it.
In conclusion, American manners are but an instance or result of the two predominant American characteristics to which I have already referred, and which reappear in so many other things American. A love of independence and of equality, early inculcated, and a keen abhorrence of waste of time, engendered by the conditions and circumstances of a new country, serve to explain practically all the manners and mannerisms of Americans. Even the familiar spectacle of men walking with their hands deep in their trousers' pockets, or sitting with their legs crossed, needs no other explanation, and to suggest that, because Americans have some habits which are peculiarly their own, they are either inferior or unmanly, would be to do them a grave injustice.
Few people are more warm-hearted, genial, and sociable than the Americans. I do not dwell on this, because it is quite unnecessary.
The fact is perfectly familiar to all who have the slightest knowledge of them. Their kindness and warmth to strangers are particularly pleasant, and are much appreciated by their visitors. In some other countries, the people, though not unsociable, surround themselves with so much reserve that strangers are at first chilled and repulsed, although there are no pleasanter or more hospitable persons anywhere to be found when once you have broken the ice, and learned to know them; but it is the stranger who must make the first advances, for they themselves will make no effort to become acquainted, and their manner is such as to discourage any efforts on the part of the visitor. You may travel with them for hours in the
same car, sit opposite to them, and all the while they will shelter themselves behind a newspaper, the broad sheets of which effectively prohibit any attempts at closer acquaintance. The following instance, culled from a personal experience, is an illustration. I was a law student at Lincoln's Inn, London, where there is a splendid law library for the use of the students and members of the Inn. I used to go there almost every day to pursue my legal studies, and generally sat in the same quiet corner. The seat on the opposite side of the table was usually occupied by another law student. For months we sat opposite each other without exchanging a word. I thought I was too formal and reserved, so I endeavored to improve matters by occasionally looking up at him as if about to address him, but every time I did so he looked down as though he did not wish to see me. Finally I gave up the attempt. This is the general habit with English gentlemen. They will not speak to a stranger without a proper introduction; but in the case I have mentioned surely the rule would have been more honored by a breach than by the observance. Seeing that we were fellow students, it might have been presumed that we were gentlemen and on an equal footing. How different are the manners of the American! You can hardly take a walk, or go for any distance in a train, without being addressed by a stranger, and not infrequently making a friend. In some countries the fact that you are a foreigner only thickens the ice; in America it thaws it. This delightful trait in the American character is also traceable to the same cause as that which has helped us to explain the other peculiarities which have been mentioned. To good Americans, not only are the citizens of America born equal, but the citizens of the world are also born equal.
POETIC PEOPLE 1
It seems only fitting that The Enjoyment of Poetry, from which “Poetic People” is taken, should be written by a poet. It will be interesting indeed to know whether the fame of Max Eastman as a writer will rest upon his somewhat modernistic verse or upon this stimulating discussion of how poetry should be used in order to serve its essential purpose, enjoyment. That the discussion tends toward the philosophical is but natural both because the subject matter and the point of view taken permit it and because of the background of interest Max Eastman brings to it. During his undergraduate days at Williams College and his years as a graduate student at Columbia University he was deeply interested in philosophy, so deeply indeed that he was asked to become an assistant in the teaching of philosophy at the latter institution; later he became an associate professor of philosophy and held that position until 1911.
He had with his deep interest in philosophy a strong passion for social and economic equality, which has been expressed in active fighting for the principles he espoused. He was president and editor of The Masses, a periodical of liberalism which enjoyed a decidedly stormy career. În 1910 he organized the First Men's League for Woman's Suffrage. His strong resentment of inequalities resulting from the existing social order is frequently found both in his verse and his prose writings. His best known collections of poems are Child of the Amazons and Other Poems and Colors of Life, while his prose writings include Sense of Humor and Journalism versus Art. One frequently finds poems and essays written by him in the leading magazines. He was born January 4, 1883, at Canandaigua, New York.
A SIMPLE experiment will distinguish two types of human nature. Gather a throng of people and pour them into a ferry-boat. By the time the boat has swung into the river you will find that a certain proportion have taken the trouble to climb upstairs in order to be out on deck and see what is to be seen as they cross over. The
1 From Enjoyment of Poetry, copyright, 1913, by Charles Scribner's Sons. Reprinted by permission of the publishers.