Category Archives: Sequels to Looking Backward

Deacon Van Winkle’s Dream (Looking Backward)(1889)

I’m in the midst of a Sequels of Looking Backward marathon, working my way through as many of the early responses to Edward Bellamy’s novel as I can get my hands on. In the process of tracking these down, I’ve come across a couple of short pieces that are worth a look. “Deacon Van Winkle’s Dream,” by George H. Hubbard, is a sharp Christian response to Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, centered on Thanksgiving Day. The author appears to be the George Henry Hubbard (1857-) who wrote The Teaching of Jesus in Parables, and who was a persistent, relatively conservative voice in the discussions of reform. (As he was an fairly eloquent proponent of his position, I have included links to a number of his articles below.) However moralistic, the “Dream” is a clever piece, well constructed as a sequel to Bellamy’s novel.


Deacon Van Winkle was proud of his pedigree. He delighted to talk of the old Van Winkle family in Holland, and pointed with satisfaction to various characteristics in the children which, he said, indicated their Dutch ancestry. Again and again in the long winter evenings he would take down a well-worn copy of Irving’s “Sketch Book,” and read the story of Rip Van Winkle, and none of the family ever seemed to tire of hearing it.

Not long since, however, the deacon was seriously startled, not to say grieved, by a rumor that his famous ancestor had found a formidable rival in the person of one Julian West, whose story had just been placed before the public. Filled with jealousy, not a wicked, worldly jealousy, but a mild and righteous jealousy becoming to an orthodox deacon, he determined at the first opportunity to purchase a copy of “Looking Backward” to see if it was anything more than a weak imitation of the old story of Rip Van Winkle’s sleep

He happened to find it on the day before Thanksgiving Day, and brought it home to read in the evening.

At the supper-table the conversation turned on the plans for the next day. Heretofore it had been the custom for the Van Winkle family to attend church on Thanksgiving Day; for they were somewhat conservative in their ideas, a became a family with so long a pedigree. This year, however, a revolution seemed imminent. The younger members of the family pleaded for a change. They couldn’t see the use of going to church to hear a political or historical sermon. There would be only a few there, and the service would be dull. Besides they really ought to stay at home to prepare for the grand family gathering of Van Winkles that would be with them to take dinner. Finally it was decided that the church service should be given up, and the whole force of the family should be concentrated on the dinner.

Immediately after supper the deacon sat down to read his new book, and so absorbed did he become that, notwithstanding sundry admonitions from Mrs. Van Winkle, he refused to retire till he had finished the very last page. Then, hastily closing the book, he went to bed and quickly fell asleep. As a result of his unusual mental exertion of the evening he began to dream.

It was Thanksgiving Day, but he was not in the old house. His surroundings were strange. He was in a well-furnished parlor, and opposite to him sat a pleasant looking old gentleman, whom he at once recognized as Dr. Leete. With as little surprise as dreamers usually feel, he realized that he, too, had dropped into the twentieth century, and he determined to make some investigations on his own account.

With what seemed quite a natural transition from preceding conversation, he said: “By the way, Doctor, as this is Thanksgiving Day, shall we go to church, as has always been the custom in my family?”

The doctor looked at him thoughtfully, and replied: “You speak of something that few would understand at the present day. I remember, however, having read about it in history. This is one of our public holidays; but we do not call it Thanksgiving Day, altho it takes the place of that ancient festival. We call it Social Day. We attribute all the blessings that we enjoy not to a mythical being called God, but to our refined and perfected social system. Hence we devote the day to feasting and pleasure in honor of our social system.”

“This is indeed a great change from the old idea,” said the deacon. “How did it come about? Were there not very many who protested when the change was made?”

“Oh no,” replied Dr. Leete. ”The change was so gradual that it would be hard to say just when it took place. In fact, it was but the expression of a gradual development in public thought and feeling. If I mistake not, you yourself saw some of the beginnings of the movement. Do you not remember how few people cared to attend church on Thanksgiving Day? Half a dozen churches by uniting, could not secure as large an audience as would be found in any one of the churches on the Sabbath, These gatherings grew smaller each succeeding year until at length they were wholly abandoned.

The next step was the inevitable decay of the sense of gratitude in the heart. Such emotions unexpressed soon cease to exist. All the while the popular mind was developing and men began to see the folly of looking for help and blessing to an external and mysterious power utterly beyond their ken. It gradually dawned upon them that the secret of all good or evil lies in the make up of society. Given a correct social system and all evil will disappear as if by magic. Viewed in its true light, sin is atavism, suffering is error, and gratitude is superstition. Social reforms have saved the world; they have regenerated humanity. How foolish then, to talk of gratitude to God for these things! I see you are somewhat shocked; but when you have time to think it over carefully I am sure you will acknowledge the present state of things to be the natural outcome of the tendencies of your own time.”

“It seems to me,” said the deacon, “That religion itself has become a thing of the past. I see no place for it in the present order of things.”

“That is a mistake naturally arising from the narrow and distorted views in which you were educated, if you will pardon the adjectives,” replied Dr. Leete. “Religion has not ceased to exist. On the contrary, it has grown broader, more practical, more consistent with itself, and as a natural consequence it is universally accepted. We have no infidels or skeptics now except among those who are recognized as unworthy members of society. In your day skeptics were the result of the inconsistencies of your religion. You preached one system of truth and practiced another. You said a great deal about God and his Word In your pulpits: but expediency was usually the controlling motive of your life. You seldom brought the Bible into direct contact with practical affairs. When you urged men to keep the Sabbath, it was seldom on the ground of sanctity, or because it was God’s day. The all-powerful arguments were personal profit, physical health, and other economic advantages. And even the most devout Christians looked for greater practical blessings from proposed social reforms than from the preaching of the Gospel. How many of your ministers, for example, gave over the preaching of Christianity to become advocates of political prohibition, the single tax doctrine, and various other schemes of reform.

“We have merely carried out their ideas in a more logical fashion. Dropping the purely sentimental ideas of God and spirituality, we recognize the essence of religion in love for mankind and a true devotion to the interests of society.”

“Can this be the end of that which seemed so slight at the beginning?” said the deacon. “The edge of the wedge was very thin. Only a slight indifference to duty, only a little yielding to worldly principles, only a trifling lack of faith in the power of God: and the result has been the dethronement of God from his place in the universe.”

Just at that moment the doctor accidentally touched an electric button connected with the machinery of the National Orchestra, and the sudden ringing of a peel of musical bells gave the deacon such a start that he awoke to hear the last tones of the breakfast-bell reminding him that he had overslept in consequence of sitting up so late the previous evening,

At the breakfast-table he related his dream to the family and concluded by saying: “I’ve made up my mind to stick to the old custom and go to church today whatever the rest of you do. You know,” he added, addressing his wife, “We’ve really more than usual to be thankful for this year. Tom and Mary were brought out of the fever almost by a miracle. And I shall not easily forget how providential it was that I missed that train that was wrecked. Besides my business has been more prosperous this year than ever before.”

As be spoke of these things the other members of the family were reminded of numerous unusual blessings enjoyed during the year, and soon the old superstition of gratitude got the better of their progressive ideas, and they unanimously voted that the dinner would taste better and the family gathering be all the more jolly if they went to church first.


George H. Hubbard in the New Englander and Yale review:

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Filed under 1890s, Sequels to Looking Backward

Edward Berwick, “Farming in the Year 2000 A. D. (1890)

Here’s yet another short sequel to Bellamy’s novel, by Edward Berwick. It appeared in the June 1890 issue of the Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine, to which Berwick submitted a number or articles. His work also appeared in The Outlook and The Arena.


With nerves unstrung by that horrent nightmare, which had replunged me into the cruel vortex of nineteenth century antagonism and brutality, I cast around for some method of restoring my usual equanimity. An excursion into the country would, it appeared to me, serve the double purpose of acting as a nervous sedative, and of enabling me to realize something of the conditions of rural life in this year 2000 A. D.
Repairing to Dr. Leete’s study, I found him busily conning those pages of Storiot’s History of the Nineteenth Century in which agriculture was discussed. Having expressed to him my desire, I added, “Your methods of distribution and finance have proved so interesting to me that I long intensely to learn something of your performance of that more vital function, production.”
“Ah, Mr. West,” replied the Doctor, “that reminds me that I have very much wished to consult you upon what has always seemed to me a great mystery. This history of Storiot’s gives one to understand that the distaste for a farmer’s vocation was so great in your nineteenth century as to result in an exodus that left the rural districts almost depopulated. Can this be true? If so, it becomes yet more incomprehensible when one reconstructs mentally one of our overgrown yet crowded cities. The dense canopies of soot and impure gases, overhanging them like a funeral pall, were themselves danger-signals, warning the unwary that life’s most precious possession, health, was imperiled. Then the mud and dust, the squalor and malodorousness, the grime and filth of your back alleys and byways,—aye, often even of your main thoroughfares,—must have acted as repellents and nauseants to one accustomed to sweet country air. To complete this uninviting catalogue, one must add the deplorably insanitary condition of your dwellings. Why, Storiot actually affirms that the consort of Queen Victoria was literally poisoned in, Windsor Castle by sewage miasma; while, about the same time, over one hundred students of Princeton College were attacked by typhus fever from a similar cause. So late as 1889 a Hygienic Congress, sitting in the City of Paris, condemned 77,000 out of its 79,000 houses as defective in sanitation. And this in a city vaunting itself the center of civilization, whose system of sewers was world renowned, the pride of the poet Hugo. Presuming all this true, there must have been some remarkable fatuity to induce men to migrate from the sweet purity of God’s ‘un-man-stifled places,’ to coop themselves in such vile wildernesses of brick.”
“Though I can refute nothing of your historian’s indictment against the abominations of our cities,” I replied dejectedly, “I can perhaps solve your problem by a reference to that root of all our nineteenth century evils, the greedy grab for money. Money, if we ruin our bodies! Money, if we sell our souls! Incredible and monstrous as it may seem to you, there were among our farming community the same mutual jealousy, suspicion, and antagonism that embittered and impeded all other walks of life; the same blind, misdirected, feverish energy, unintelligently over-producing certain staples, which had to be sold at unremunerative prices. Hence heavy labor, long protracted, often repulsive and even brutal, was compulsory to obtain a bare sustenance. Some few evaded this curse by the successful substitution of the sweat of some one else’s brow; but, as a rule, the farmer and his family were debarred from almost all social recreation, and precluded by excessive fatigue from mental culture at home. Add to this that his business was the sport of the weather, to the inclemencies of which he was often exposed; that he was harassed by plagues innumerable, beetle and bug, mildew and mould, canker-worm and caterpillar; and bled impartially by rodent, rent-collector, and tax-gatherer. One theorist even proposed to make land bear the whole tax of the nation, promising a consequent millennium.”
“Stop,” said Doctor Leete, “that’s explanation enough. You will find our farming as diametrically different to that of your nineteenth century as is our storekeeping. Nothing you have said previous to this portrayal of the farmers woes has so made me realize how dim were your dawnings of science. I had failed to remember that your scientists could barely foretell the weather a few hours ahead, and that your farmers looked to birds, insects, and even trees for intimations of hard winters or early springs. Now, our meteorologists furnish accurate forecasts for the entire year, and our tillers of the soil shape their course accordingly. But let us continue our talk on the road, where both eye and ear can be busy.”
Seating ourselves in a light, beautifully appointed electric curricle, the doctor touched the ubiquitous contact button, and sped us rapidly westward along the smooth, broad, tree-shaded avenue. Crossing the sinuous Charles, with its sculpin-haunted bridges, our road was bordered on either hand with an endless succession of snuggest villas, lawn-begirt and flower-adorned. glorious in their greenery, the ideal of everything homelike and hospitable. More miles and more, and the same pleasing vista still charmed the eye, until I began to think that Boston must have taken the American continent. I noticed, however, that the gardens were becoming more extensive, and occasionally fairy palaces of iron and glass, covering acres of ground, diversified the scene; while every few miles magnificent assembly halls reared their inviting porticos at the roadside. In vain I looked around for some of the old familiar waste places and solitudes, for which my eyes seemed to long.
“How soon, Doctor Leete,” I asked, “shall we reach your farming district?”
“You are now in the heart of it,” he replied.
Rubbing my eyes to make sure I was awake, I stared at my companion in amazement. Where were all the shabby barns, the dilapidated outbuildings, pigsties, hen-houses, calf-sheds, stables, the malodorous middens and muckheaps, inseparable from nineteenth century farmsteads? Then it flashed across me that I had seen neither sheep nor cow,—no, not even a solitary hog, since I awoke from my century’s trance.
“You appear dazed!” said the Doctor. “What is it that strikes you as specially wonderful?”
“Why, the absence of all live stock, to be sure! Where do you keep your cows and pigs, your horses and sheep? Our farmers’ chief business was to provide provender for his livestock. Here I see no livestock. Nothing but garden, garden, garden!”
“You don’t see them because we have none!”
“Have none? Then whence came that juicy cutlet which I had for breakfast? Savory as the fattest of fat venison fed on the Delectable Mountains! “
A smile wreathed the Doctor’s face as he replied:
“It is satisfactory to hear so pronounced an opinion from one so qualified to judge. As we never taste flesh, it has been necessarily a doubtful point as to whether our edible fungi were really superior to animal food. Your morning meal was blood-guiltless; your juicy cutlet was but a slice from an agaric. In your age one class of savages was held in especial abhorrence. Your flesh crept and your blood curdled as you whispered the word “cannibal,” even when applied to a sailor, starvation-crazed on mid-ocean. Our generation similarly abhors all flesh-eaters. But do not suppose that we affect any contempt for the science of cookery, because we eschew meat. Man is what he is by virtue of his education and environment, and food is no inconsiderable part of that environment. Our cooks prepare purely vegetable dishes, compared to which, we opine, the rarest fleshpots of your Egypt were but as carrion. If Storiot is right, your much esteemed fillet of beef had to be flavored with mushrooms, and that highly valued dainty of the gourmand, the paté de foie gras, depended for its piquancy on the added aroma of a fungous tuber. No! the farmer of today,—and his name is Legion, agriculture being by far the most popular of all vocations, —performs none of that repulsive and brutalizing labor in connection with live stock which constituted farming in your day. Growing and stacking huge ricks of hay, and threshing endless bushels of grain, for the maintenance of his horses and bullocks, his hogs and sheep, during winter; collecting and distributing all kinds of unsavory fertilizers; daily tending and caring for his flocks and herds,—made up a farmer’s life. How needless was all this labor, let the stalwart frames and ruddy countenances of this generation witness. Even you had the example of Daniel and his friends, who, preferring a pulse diet, refused the king’s meat; but whose countenances were fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. I believe also that the nourishing and nitrogenous bean was a staple food of your poorer Bostonians. Under our improved dietetic regime, we not only have succeeded in maintaining a population of thirty from the same acreage that on a meat diet fed one, but we have effectually banished that demon of the nineteenth century, dyspepsia: the demon that tortured the body, embittered the soul, and envenomed the pen of your great master of satire, Carlyle.”
“But,” queried I, “if you thus eliminate all live stock from your farming system, how are your fields and gardens fertilized?”
The smile of conscious power and adequate knowledge again illumined the Doctor’s visage, as he replied:
“In the first place, by that endless natural supply, the refuse of cities. This, suitably deodorized by dry earth, is delivered by our pneumatic transmitters to such lands as need renewing, and there distributed by electric carry-alls. If I am rightly informed, this supply was in your day not only allowed to waste, but actually discharged into your rivers, poisoning alike air and water; while at the same time your lack of nitrogenous fertilizers put you to immense expense in the mining and transportation of nitrates. These, by the aid of our slave of the lamp, electricity, we obtain in any quantity from that omnipresent and inexhaustible nitrogen mine, the atmosphere; of course, combining the nitric acid thence obtained with the necessary bases.
“This reminds me of another laborious, ever-recurring piece of work, from which that same slave of the lamp has freed our agriculturists; the cutting and cleaving of cord-wood for heating the wintry air of your abodes. Not only our artificial light and heat, but all the motive power of our machinery is supplied by electricity. Fields are plowed, seeds sown, crops harvested, all by that same swift servitor, whom your contemporaries had but just learned to harness. Fluvial and tidal forces furnish ample energy for all purposes: so that cold water literally boils our kettles, warms our hands, and even smelts the most refractory ores. You may judge then how easy the farmer’s yoke, how light his burden today; especially when you remember that all anxiety and care as to marketing his crops, or providing for his family’s present and future, have under our social system become utterly needless.”
“You are, my dear Doctor, indeed favored above mortals!” I gladly assented. “But you have not yet by any means exhausted Farmer Hayseed’s catalogue of woes. Tares sprung up and choked his wheat; codlin moth or curculio rendered hateful his pleasant fruits; cut worm, wire worm, gopher, squirrel, scale bug, locust, and fly ravaged his fields and stripped his trees, robbing him of half his due reward. If your system and science have extirpated these I shall hail you as victors indeed.”
“What appeared impossible, and was impossible in your chaos of antagonism,” replied the Doctor, “has become not only possible, but easy, with our system of harmonious co-operation. In your day the farmer who, by trap and poison, would rid his fields of vermin, was checkmated by the neighbor who was too lazy or apathetic to do the like. The lazy man’s fields bred vermin enough to more than restock the runs and burrows that the diligent man had emptied. One orchardist by endless vigilance strove to keep his trees healthy; his neighbor, perhaps out of sheer spite, neglected his; and scale bug, curculio, or codlin moth migrated in myriads to the vigilant man’s orchard. With weeds the same:—what industry kept free, idleness reseeded. Now, by united effort, not a weed goes to seed, not a noxious insect lives within our borders. Entomology became so thoroughly understood that, by giving favorable environment to certain predatory varieties, the noxious species were long ago exterminated. We thus reap the full reward of our toil. Moreover, there is no attempt made to produce crops that are unfitted for the locality. Distribution is so rapid and easy that we can utilize natural adaptations to the utmost, and thus results a perfection not known in your age. This is accomplished the more readily in that our command of chemistry ensures us that needful supply of the requisite fertilizing ingredients which renders us independent of soil constituents. Add to all these advantages an abundance of competent labor, plus the absolute possession of the unbounded and untiring energy of our slave of the lamp, and the horticulture of today has been made possible.”
Here the Doctor slackened the speed of our curricle, as we neared one of those immense palaces of crystal I had previously noticed. Alighting, we entered a portico, tastefully lit by transparent mosaics; thence passed into a glorious sylvan cloister, extending all around the building, rich with the verdure of the tropics, through which flashed the starry wings of strange, bright birds, and among whose arches echoed their warbled melodies.
“This,” said Dr. Leete, with a glow of pride, “is one of our winter promenades. This is the ornate fringe of the useful center, devoted as you see to such vegetables as need artificial heat. Below is a crypt allotted to the culture of agarics and fungous tubers, such as delighted your palate this morning. Our slave of the lamp automatically maintains the required temperature, and in winter prolongs the day to the extent required for continuous growth. So that here we fear not even the Shaksperian enemies, ‘Winter and rough weather.”‘
Words fail to picture the marvel of horticultural perfection on which I gazed. Tender care and exquisite taste were displayed everywhere, as though each plant had been ranged by an artist.
The Doctor read my admiring look, and gave utterance to my thought.
“Yes, our gardeners are all artists. I believe in the nineteenth century they were not included in that denomination. But surely if to reproduce nature on canvas be art, to embellish nature, which is the true gardener’s office, is yet higher art. And I think, Mr. West, you will be hardly disposed to deny, after what you have seen today of rural Massachusetts, that we have been fairly successful in embellishing nature.”
“Success! Yes, your success to me is miraculous! The incomprehensible part of it to me is where the money—”
“Ah,” broke in the Doctor, “there comes in your old-world bogey again! It was an eternal question as to money?—money?—money? You want to ask where the means to promote and carry out such schemes are found. You forget how much more rapid psychical evolution is than physical. In your century a Harvard professor could say with reason, ‘Only a small fraction of the human race have as yet, by thousands of years of struggle, been partially emancipated from poverty, ignorance, and brutishness.’ Our change of social polity has multiplied that fraction many fold. Now our people are all emancipated from that vilest of slavery. The office of brains nowadays is not to aggrandize and exalt their fortunate possessorat the expense of the debasement of his fellows. We find our highest gratification in self-devotion to the uplifting of t hose who are less richly endowed; and reap a harvest of admiration and love consequent on that only pious course. Thus we have a population capable of the grandest achievements in art or science; a population free from all internal and external cares and anxieties, eager to concentrate thought, time, and energy on such productive work as you have glanced at today. Usefulness is with us the sole title to nobility. With you the typical ‘good fellow’ was one who had money, no matter how acquired, that he was ready to squander in ostentatious idleness or profligacy. For such characters our age finds neither name nor place. Whether our methods be happier, whether they result in success, you have now seen enough to judge.”
The look of admiration with which I could but behold the magnificent triumph of art-aided nature before me was a sufficiently eloquent reply.
As we rode homewards I gathered many further details from Doctor Leete as to the crops grown in different districts. These, of course, remained a great deal as in the nineteenth century. The Doctor was specially enthusiastic over a visit he had lately paid to California, in his capacity of National Sanitary Inspector. Fruit forming so large a part of the nation’s sustenance, it was one of his duties to learn and teach the newest and best methods of its growth and preservation.
“After your nineteenth century experience,” said he! “you can have no conception of the glories of that American paradise. All your visions of vine and fig tree, of myrtle, and palm, and orange, your grapes of Eshcol and clusters of Mamre, are belittled by the Edenic reality! Blossom-clad rose fields for perfume, hills purpled with wealth of the vine, terraces silvered with olives, or gold with the orange’s glow, plains where the peach and the pear shared the bounteous soil with the prune, mountain sides where the racy apple stored up the sun’s kisses for winter. No more dread of drought, as in your day, no more crying of a parched earth to a pitiless sky, but intelligent man working in happy harmony with bounteous nature; the State overspread with a network of waterways, wealth-bearing, life-giving, making even the deserts kind and hospitable, and the barren hillside a fruitful grove. All this and more, because man has, after centuries of strife and antagonism, learned at last the wisdom and policy of mutual help; a lesson long taught him by the practical socialism of the ant, the bee, and even of that type of envenomed malice, the wasp.”

Edward Berwick.

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Filed under 1890s, Edward Bellamy, Edward Berwick, Sequels to Looking Backward

Dyer D. Lum and Solomon Schindler, “A Journalist’s Confession” (1890)

In this exchange from The Open Court (April 10 and May 1, 1890) Dyer D. Lum and Rabbi Solomon Schindler square off over Edward Bellamy’s ideas in a set of sequels to Looking Backward. Schindler was a Boston radical, a proponent of Bellamyite Nationalism, and a regular contributor to The Arena. Dyer was a regular contributor to Liberty and The Index. Their exchange is a nice window into the basic conflict between the state socialists and anarchists at the turn of the centry.


You will be surprised, my dear Dr. Leete, to learn that I have severed my connection with the “Trumpet of Liberty,” but such is the fact. Your kindness in the past, your earnest zeal in laboring to secure sufficient subscribers to reimburse the executive power for expense incurred, as well as your unfailing optimism even when circumstances looked dark, all alike convince me that I would be derelict to favors received were I not to lay before you the reasons which have actuated me in this final step. Nor are the reasons purely sentimental, though I know that if I should place them upon that ground I could at once command the tender sympathies of your generous and trusting heart And if my private criticisms herein as to the wisdom of our mode of conducting newspapers should seem to lean toward treason, I can but simply throw myself upon your good nature.
The imperative necessity of first securing enough subscribers to guarantee cost before permission to publish could be obtained, necessarily made the venture in a large degree local. To the circulars sent out the replies from a distance were, as we expected, not very encouraging; the utter lack of advertising, if I may he permitted that antique word, prevented the fact from being widely known, as well as the character and scope of our work, and at the same time deprived us of means to collect names. In fact, my dear doctor, while in no wise depreciating the calm security we now possess of knowing that our material wants will he easily gratified, it still seems to me, but without indorsing Carlyle’s allusion to ”pig’s wash,” that this security of the stomach tends to confine our efforts within narrower circles and restrict our intellectual horizon within the boundaries of personal intercourse. Without means to reach unknown inquirers, our work and progress has been largely retarded.
But the “Trumpet,” fortunately, having a goodly subscription list, and I being elected editor, these difficulties were surmounted, even if it prevented a material reduction in terms or increase of attractions. But here a greater difficulty arose. You remember the biting sarcasms in works of a former age in which the clergy were assailed for being necessarily subservient to the pews whence arose their support. I fancy I can put myself in the place of a clergyman under those semi-barbarous conditions prevailing before government kindly relieved us of the care of overlooking our own morals. For even under our resplendent liberty, which I have done so much to trumpet, I have found myself continually treading on tender corns and drawing forth indignant protests from my constituency. Our beloved institutions have not fostered criticism; on the contrary, the tendency is plainly toward its repression. Though our presses continually issue books, they, like papers, find great difficulty in reaching beyond a merely local market, which while heightening cost necessarily limits circulation. To write for the “pews” only, so to speak, restricts independence; while independence either curtails my list of readers or changes its personnel, in either case depriving the paper of an assured and solid basis.
To antagonize those within immediate reach, whom everything tends to render extremely conservative toward speculations relative to wider personal liberty, and without means to reach others at a distance to whom such thoughts might he welcome, is but one of the many difficulties I have encountered. Individual initiative having long since gone out of fashion, in the collapse of the ancient system of political economy, it becomes more and more difficult to assert it in the economy of intellect. I am aware that the field of journalism is regarded as exempted from the general rule of authoritative direction and, like the clergy, left to personal merit to win success; still the universal tendency of all our institutions to militant measures and direction largely invalidates the theory. This tendency to centralization, which has become the crowning glory of our civilization, is strikingly manifest even in journalism, despite its theoretical exemption.
The subscribers being, so to speak, stockholders, and persons whose everyday occupations and mode of living tend to disparage individual initiative, the first effect of anything blasphemous to the sacred shrine of the commonplace is the appointment of a committee, or board of directors, by the subscribers whose chief functions consist in promoting solidarity among the enrolled subscribers. Theoretically, I had become convinced that this was the flower of our civilization and frequently elucidated its philosophy at Shawmut College, but my later experience has not led me to be enraptured with its fragrance. Each one, in so far as individuality has survived, to however slight a degree, feels not only competent but authorized to express himself editorially; for those most fervent in presenting the superiority of collective wisdom are equally convinced that they are its organs.
When I accepted the position as editor, I believed that this reservation of journalism from collective control was wise, but what was excluded in theory reappears in practice. If you could but look over the articles I have received from the stockholders whom I represent, the “pews” to whom I preach, you might be tempted to change the name of the paper to the “Scrap Book,” or face the problem of reducing material cost without increasing intellectual costiveness. You see my dilemma: if I insert them I am publishing contradictory principles, if I exclude them I am flying in the face of our great and glorious institutions by looking backward to outgrown conditions, wherein some of your semi-barbarous forefathers were wont to prate of the inseparableness of personal initiative and responsibility.
That our social system can be criticised by writers for its compulsory enlistment for three years to secure ample supply for social demand for sewer-ditchers, night scavengers, domestic service, etc., you would undoubtedly agree with me in regarding as only coming from those in whom our beneficent institutions had not eradicated as yet the hereditary taint of being “born tired,” a complaint of which we read in some ancient authors. Yet, whatever its source, such criticisms are received, though generally concealed in allegory. Thus, recently, I bad to reject a story of considerable literary excellence, wherein was described a fancied society where parity of conditions rendered free competition equitable, and remuneration for work was determined in open market by intensity and degree of repugnance overcome, thus unsocially offered the highest inducements to disagreeable labor. I saw at once the anarchistic character of the work, and promptly suppressed it as treasonous.
I have also come to the conclusion, my dear Dr. Leete, that the newspaper is obsolete. For current gossip and small talk we already have abundant vehicles; for criticism on public polity there is no room, even if there were need, nor would it be wise to tolerate it in a community where individuality is subordinated to general welfare and protection constitutes the genius of ail institutions. Our general news we receive officially, all alike, as it is given to us, and the official bulletins meet all demands that may arise which public safety and morality deem wisdom to publish. Titles of heavier treatises than the ephemeral requirements of newspapers may always be found in the official record of publications distributed among our purchasing agencies, to those who have time to search through their voluminous bulk, and even if a title should prove misleading, a common misfortune for which I can suggest no adequate remedy, our material prosperity is so well assured that credit so wasted will not injure anyone.
Finding, therefore, that our present legally instituted scheme of journalism is incompatible with our social constitution, to preserve which all else must be sacrificed, in that it cannot be successfully conducted without individual initiative, control, and responsibility, I gladly cease the struggle to return to my chair of philosophy of history at Shawmut College. My own opinion is that the collective direction now so simplified over production and exchange in material fabrics, should be logically extended to the production and exchange of the more subtle fabrics of the brain if our glorious institutions are to permanently remain on a solid and immovable basis, To admit anarchy in thought, and insist on artificial regulation of relations which are horn of thought, is plainly illogical and dangerous to collective liberty. A social system once instituted must be preserved at all hazards; to preserve is as essential as to create; and this is the more evident when we are the creators and know the result to be to our social well being.
Happily, the compulsory solidarity to which civilization has now attained in material wealth, and the moralization of militancy a century ago, effected by political high-priests, already gives every indication of being dominant in the intellectual sphere before the close of this newly-opened century. Having organized liberty, having brought the spirit of freedom down from abstract heights to add a local habitation to its name, by excluding individual initiative and personal responsibility in economics, having substituted the kind fraternalism of direction for the wild freedom of competition, let us hasten the rapidly nearing day when intellect will also reject these survivals of a ruder age—a day wherein we will reach the culminating point of our civilization, where looking forward will be synonymous with looking backward!

Yours for organized and instituted liberty.


P. S.—Edith sends love; the baby is well, J. W.


My Dear Julian:—Your last letter, although I noticed therein your ill-hidden feeling of disappointment and the pain which the failure in your journalistic enterprise has caused you, made me rather smile than grieve for you. I hope, dear Julian, that you will pardon my apparent lack of sympathy, and if you will accept from me a fatherly word, there may he a chance that the wound which your pride has received may soon heal. The short and long of your letter is that, although at your time you had never received a journalistic training, you have ventured to enter upon a journalistic enterprise even before you had made yourself thoroughly familiar with our present conditions, and that you have failed. Owing to your marvelous appearance among us, we gave you something to do which we thought would meet with your taste. We thought that as a teacher of ancient history and especially of the history of the nineteenth century, you might do some good to the community and thus give an equivalent for the support the community grants to yon. Yet, before hardly a year has passed by, before you could have hardly familiarized yourself with the needs and wants of our present time you have had the presumption—pardon the harshness of my expression—to criticize us and to teach us what we ought to do. Again, owing to the sensation which your sudden appearance among us had created, quite a number of good-natured people were found ready to subscribe for the Trumpet, as you pleased to call your paper. Good naturedly they were satisfied to give you a chance and to hear what you had to say to them. If you had ever considered it worth your while to ask me about it, I would have told you to leave well enough alone; I would have told you that as little as an Indian, at your time, could have been made a member of your civilized society by merely taking him from the prairies and dropping him into the streets of Boston, so little can a person that has been reared in different conditions and under the former system of individualism at once comprehend our social conditions, sympathize with them, and appreciate them; I would have told you that first of all you ought to learn the A B C of journalism; I would have told you that, although every one of us has indeed the right of expressing his opinion, nobody must think that his opinion is the ne plus ultra of human wisdom or that after he has expressed it the whole world must at once become convinced of it. If you then had heeded my advice, you would have escaped the ridicule that always attaches to failure and the consequent pain caused by the disappointment. You did not ask me, but you went to work, got up a subscription-list and began to issue the paper. What kind of a paper? A journal after the fashion of the last century and not after the fashion of ours. Would you have expected in the year 1890 a paper to flourish that was issued in the style of the year 1790? This misplacement of time which we all find quite natural in you has been the sole cause of your failure. I do not wonder that the journals as we have them do not suit you, and that therefore you desired to establish one that would suit your taste better but you forgot that the style which would suit you because you bad become accustomed to it must not necessarily suit everybody else.
At your time, a paper contained four distinct departments.
1. The department most interesting to the public was the news department. People wanted and needed to know what has happened all over the world and many more things did happen then than do to-day. At your time, columns of a newspaper were filled with the description of crimes that bad been committed, of wars that were waged to-day nothing of the kind occurs. At your time, people wished to be informed what the members of the aristocracy or the plutocracy were doing, how they amused themselves, what dresses the rich ladies wore, what summer resorts they were seeking, etc. Who would care for such trash to-day? At your time, the quotations of the market, the rising and the falling of stocks had an all absorbing interest. It was necessary for every business man, for every manufacturer, for every capitalist to know whether gold has gone down one point or silver has risen to-day we have no exchange, money has ceased to be the pendulum on the clock work of human society and such events do not occur. Whatever remains as “News” and what is of interest to the public is supplied by the “National Bulletin.”
2. The second department of your newspapers and the one which interested the editors and the stockholders most was the advertising department. Your pronounced individualism and the spirit of competition which arose in consequence of it made it a necessity to push oneself before the eye of the public. “Don’t care for anybody else but buy from John Jones,” was the tenor of all your advertisements. If people had something to sell or if they wanted to buy an article if they were seeking help or were wanting employment they had to make use of the advertising columns of your newspapers. This, of course, does not apply to us. Whatever articles a person wishes to purchase, be can find in our distributing department and whatever help is to be employed, can be obtained at the National Employment Bureau. There being no demand for advertising columns the supply of course has ceased.
3. The third department of your newspapers was the belletristic department. It reached its highest development at the close of the last century. There was not a newspaper in the land that would not supply its readers with stories of all kinds, mostly of a sensational nature. The novelists who wrote for a journal were told that they must not write stories that contain more than about 40,000 to 50,000 words, that after every 1000 words the reader must be kept in suspense in order that he may be induced to buy the next paper, which was to contain the continuation. This kind of newspaper literature flourished because people had absolutely no time to sit down and read a book. If they intended to feed their imagination they had to snatch away a moment here and a moment there; this want the newspaper supplied. People could read such a story while they were riding in the street cars, or while they were eating their luncheon, As every person was obliged to buy a newspaper anyway, if he wished to be informed of the occurrences of the day, the novel which be bought with the paper did not cost him anything extra. All this is changed to-day. We have our comfortable libraries, we have sufficient means to buy a book that we wish to own, and what is more, we have the time to read it carefully. Your newspapers struggling for existence were obliged to cater to the public taste and to embody in their columns all that might induce people to patronize them. In our days, it would be considered absurd to cut up a story into a number of daily or weekly installments. You complain that yon were obliged to reject a story that was sent to you for publication on account of the tendencies which it contained and which ran counter to the supposed sentiments of your patrons. I am astonished that a person was found indeed who would endeavor to publish a literary production in this way and I am rather inclined to think that the writer, knowing your antiquated ideas of newspapers, merely wished to pass a good joke on you.
4. The fourth department of your newspapers was finally the editorial department. The editor made use of his opportunities and offered to his readers his comments and opinions on all matters of public interest. You were accustomed to be awed by authority and the editorial of a newspaper of large circulation was not taken as the opinion of the one man who wrote it, hut as the expression of the public itself. Again, because you had no time to consider carefully a topic, the editorials, at your time, had to he short and brisk. The government, furthermore, was always supposed to stand in opposition to the public will, even when chosen by an overwhelming majority of the people the administration was always looked upon with suspicion, and fault was found with almost every step which a president or a governor took. If officials pleased a certain party, they could be sure to displease the other, and thus as each party had its organ, the editorial columns were devoted to a constant warfare for or against the government. At your time, this was not more than natural, because every act of the government needed careful watching, inasmuch as individual interests were at stake. The suspicion was always near that the motives of an administration were sordid, and that having come in possession of power he would use it to enrich himself at the expense of others. All this has been changed. our officials are not suspected, they are rather honored, admired, and their work appreciated by the public. They need not to be watched, because although the wealth of the whole country is in their hands, they cannot make more use of it for themselves than you can or I. The trouble with you, my dear Julian, is that your ingrained individualistic tendencies are still blinding you and that on account of your early education you cannot understand how a government should not need the watching or the criticism of the press. What was a necessity and a very good thing at your age has ceased to he so in ours. If some of us think that he has a suggestion to make he can do so by bringing it to the notice of the superior officer, through whom it will reach headquarters, or if he thinks that his propositions have not received the proper attention he can publish what he has to say in pamphlet form. If it is good it will spread without much advertising; one will tell the other, and in a short time the people will see to it that his proposed reforms are brought about. If, on the other band, his propositions seem good only to him and to a few others and will not strike the people as founded upon common sense, they will fall flat and be ignored.
Now, in fact, we have not got newspapers or a press as you had them, nor do we need them. We are satisfied to let you have your way, but if you have failed in your enterprise, please do not lay the blame before our doors, but see to it first whether it does not lie with you.
One more point of your letter I cannot help touching. You say, somewhat sneeringly, that a social system once instituted must be preserved at all hazards, merely because some time ago it has been created. As soon as we shall find that the social order which surrounds us ceases to be beneficial to us: as soon as we shall find that any individual or any class of individuals is unduly benefitted by it while another individual or another class of individuals is unduly debarred by it from happiness, we shall surely change it and not hesitate a moment. No, no, my dear Julian, do not borrow troubles. Behold what a glorious institution ours is! Learn by your own experience! Supposing a person would have come to you in the 19th century as you came to us, could he have found at once a place in which to make himself useful? Or, supposing that you, at your time, should have been infected with the ambit on of becoming an editor, how would you have succeeded at your time without a thorough knowledge of the work? You might have undertaken the task, as did many of your contemporaries. As you were rich you could have pushed the enterprise with money, but supposing you had failed to strike the right chord, supposing that your editorials would not have met with public approbation, you would have become beggared. With the loss of your fortune you would have lost your self on the top of the coach, you would have been compelled to take your turn on the rope and your former friends would have had no sympathy with you; at best they might have thrown to you a gift of charity. Now, although unsuccessful, you can return to the work for which you have some fitness, and after a time, you may try again to climb upon an editorial chair. Yours truly,


P. S. Mother and myself send love to Edith and the baby

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Filed under 1890s, Dyer D. Lum, Edward Bellamy, Sequels to Looking Backward, Solomon Schindler