Little Journey in the World
111 Pages

Little Journey in the World


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Published 08 December 2010
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Language English
Project Gutenberg's A Little Journey in the World, by Charles Dudley Warner This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at Title: A Little Journey in the World Author: Charles Dudley Warner Last Updated: February 22, 2009 Release Date: August 22, 2006 [EBook #3103] Language: English Character set encoding: ASCII *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A LITTLE JOURNEY IN THE WORLD *** Produced by David Widger A LITTLE JOURNEY IN THE WORLD By Charles Dudley Warner Contents INTRODUCTORY SKETCH A LITTLE JOURNEY IN THE WORLD I II III IV V VI VII VIII XII XIII XIV XV XVI XVII XVIII XIX IX X XI XX XXI XXII INTRODUCTORY SKETCH The title naturally suggested for this story was "A Dead Soul," but it was discarded because of the similarity to that of the famous novel by Nikolai Gogol—"Dead Souls"—though the motive has nothing in common with that used by the Russian novelist. Gogol exposed an extensive fraud practiced by the sale, in connection with lands, of the names of "serfs" (called souls) not living, or "dead souls." This story is an attempt to trace the demoralization in a woman's soul of certain well-known influences in our existing social life. In no other way could certain phases of our society be made to appear so distinctly as when reflected in the once pure mirror of a woman's soul. The character of Margaret is the portrait of no one woman. But it was suggested by the career of two women (among others less marked) who had begun life with the highest ideals, which had been gradually eaten away and destroyed by "prosperous" marriages and association with unscrupulous methods of acquiring money. The deterioration was gradual. The women were in all outward conduct unchanged, the conventionalities of life were maintained, the graces were not lost, the observances of the duties of charities and of religion were even emphasized, but worldliness had eaten the heart out of them, and they were "dead souls." The tragedy of the withered life was a thousand-fold enhanced by the external show of prosperous respectability. The story was first published (in 1888) in Harper's Monthly. During its progress—and it was printed as soon as each installment was ready (a very poor plan)—I was in receipt of the usual letters of sympathy, or protest, and advice. One sympathetic missive urged the removal of Margaret to a neighboring city, where she could be saved by being brought under special Christian influences. The transfer, even in a serial, was impossible, and she by her own choice lived the life she had entered upon. And yet, if the reader will pardon the confidence, pity intervened to shorten it. I do not know how it is with other writers, but the persons that come about me in a little drama are as real as those I meet in every-day life, and in this case I found it utterly impossible to go on to what might have been the bitter, logical development of Margaret's career. Perhaps it was as well. Perhaps the writer should have no despotic power over his creations, however slight they are. He may profitably recall the dictum of a recent essayist that "there is no limit to the mercy of God." CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER. Hartford, August 11, 1899. A LITTLE JOURNEY IN THE WORLD I We were talking about the want of diversity in American life, the lack of salient characters. It was not at a club. It was a spontaneous talk of people who happened to be together, and who had fallen into an uncompelled habit of happening to be together. There might have been a club for the study of the Want of Diversity in American Life. The members would have been obliged to set apart a stated time for it, to attend as a duty, and to be in a mood to discuss this topic at a set hour in the future. They would have mortgaged another precious portion of the little time left us for individual life. It is a suggestive thought that at a given hour all over the United States innumerable clubs might be considering the Want of Diversity in American Life. Only in this way, according to our present methods, could one expect to accomplish anything in regard to this foreign-felt want. It seems illogical that we could produce diversity by all doing the same thing at the same time, but we know the value of congregate effort. It seems to superficial observers that all Americans are born busy. It is not so. They are born with a fear of not being busy; and if they are intelligent and in circumstances of leisure, they have such a sense of their responsibility that they hasten to allot all their time into portions, and leave no hour unprovided for. This is conscientiousness in women, and not restlessness. There is a day for music, a day for painting, a day for the display of tea-gowns, a day for Dante, a day for the Greek drama, a day for the Dumb Animals' Aid Society, a day for the Society for the Propagation of Indians, and so on. When the year is over, the amount that has been accomplished by this incessant activity can hardly be estimated. Individually it may not be much. But consider where Chaucer would be but for the work of the Chaucer clubs, and what an effect upon the universal progress of things is produced by the associate concentration upon the poet of so many minds. A cynic says that clubs and circles are for the accumulation of superficial information and unloading it on others, without much individual absorption in anybody. This, like all cynicism, contains only a half-truth, and simply means that the general diffusion of half-digested information does not raise the general level of intelligence, which can only be raised to any purpose by thorough self-culture, by assimilation, digestion, meditation. The busy bee is a favorite simile with us, and we are apt to overlook the fact that the least important part of his example is buzzing around. If the hive simply got together and buzzed, or even brought unrefined treacle from some cyclopaedia, let us say, of treacle, there would be no honey added to the general store. It occurred to some one in this talk at last to deny that there was this tiresome monotony in American life. And this put a new face on the discussion. Why should there