Source File: cat.nf044.xmlEditorial Note: Cather was the editor of the Home Monthly and therefore likely wrote much of the copy for the editorial page. However, only her authorship of "The Burns Centenary" has been confirmed, and the writing of the other editorials could be from another hand. From The Home Monthly, 6 (September 1896):  12.

The Home Monthly

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PITTSBURGH, PA., SEPTEMBER, 1896.

The August number of THE HOME MONTHLY contained 20,500 complete copies. This issue will be larger.

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Our Second Number.

With the September issue THE HOME MONTHLY makes its second appearance. We are grateful for the dozens of complimentary comments so kindly given by editors of other publications. THE HOME MONTHLY hopes to merit a continuance of their favor. We note that nearly every one in speaking of THE HOME MONTHLY seems solicitous lest it may not be able to maintain, at so low a subscription price, the high standard of literary excellence established in the August number, and conditions its future success upon its doing so. We feel sure no one will think it is retrograding when this issue is examined. Every line in this issue was written expressly for it. Every illustration in this issue was designed especially for it. Some departments that appeared last month are supplanted by others this month, but our aim shall be to present the best and most seasonable literature in each issue. And while it is impossible to speak absolutely concerning the mechanical appearance of a paper in advance of its issue, we shall be greatly disappointed if the present number does not present even a more handsome appearance than the last one did. While we know there are many meritorious publications asking for public favor, we think there are none that are attempting to cultivate our field, in our way; so we ask for the hearty and practical co-operation of both publishers and readers who look upon our attempts approvingly. A few fitly spoken words can do much in our favor.

Retribution.

Of course no one with natural kindness of heart enjoys seeing others suffer, but when the suffering comes to an offender in the form of retribution every fair minded person feels that justice has won a battle over evil, and that those who have been the victims of crime are vindicated. When the offense has been against the public, when public office instead of being a public trust has been made a vehicle of robbery, when those who have been trusted with corporation or municipal affairs are shown to have been while in the enjoyment of popular favor the veriest of rascals, then the public at large may properly congratulate themselves that the high and mighty have been brought low.

Two causes of continued crime in office exist: First, the sickly sentiment that esteems the thieving of public money less criminal than that of robbing the private individual. Second, the tedious delay that usually attends the punishment of the public robber.

Have we not before us some indications that the tide is turning in favor of a more honest administering of the affairs of great cities? Have there not been several recent cases known to us all where a just retribution has been promptly visited upon public offenders? Let us hope for more of this and use our influence in that direction. Let us not allow maudlin sentiment or personal friendship, or even sympathy for the innocent friends of offenders, to blind us to our duty.

The Burns Centenary.

The Burns centenary has come and gone and more money has been spent in observing it than poor Bobbie Burns ever received for all the songs that have made the world glad for a century. It is just a little bit ironical, this costly observance of the day on which Burns died in obscure poverty and was buried by charity. America and England, as well as Scotland, have joined in acknowledging the universal debt we owe to Burns. Who of all the present school of Scottish authors will be as gratefully remembered at the end of another century? Certainly Burns' prophesy that his fame would come after his death has been more than fulfilled.

The Scotch have always been scholars and students of literature, but they have been slow to produce. Scottish scholarship, unrivalled in its thoroughness, has given the world very little literature beyond learned commentaries and theological works that but few read. Among all these learned doctors and divines there came that "blithe spirit" who sang to the hearts of men.

It was strange indeed that just when English verse was most stiff and stilted, and literature consisted of the sparkling artificiality of the wits of Queen Anne's day, when men wrote of Heaven without reverence and of Hell without fear, there should awaken out in the fields of Ayrshire that glorious voice, sweet as a thrush's throstle, singing songs to a pink tipped daisy and a field mouse run down by the plow. Only a plow-boy, singing because the sun shone and maids were fair; and yet, with those spontaneous metres which the larks taught him he gave new life to English verse, and with that joyous humor which nature taught him he gave new hope to English hearts. For this was Burns' noblest gift, that he spoke straight to the hearts of the people, and in that lies the surest and highest immortality for any man.

Of course he died in miserable poverty. The pity is not that little men should prosper, but that great men should starve. The work that is done for eternity is paid only in eternity, but it must draw heavy interest indeed.

The Search of Parsifal.

September again, and all over the land ambitious young men and women are hurrying back to school. Among no modern people is the general thirst for education so keen as among young Americans; no other young people will undergo privation for it so readily, and in their reckless enthusiasm count all other gain but loss. Yet what one among them knows definitely what he wants, what he expects in remuneration for the priceless coin he pays,—his first experiences, his first enthusiasms, his first and freshest life? He plays for a blind stake; his ambition is like that altar which a certain preacher found in an Athenian temple, builded to an unknown god, an unnamed desire.

One of the great educators of England once said that it was always with a feeling of sadness that in the autumn he saw the boys, strong limbed and eager-eyed, come back to school. It would be a fruitless search for so many of them, so many would go away empty handed. So few of our men get out of a college course what they waist or what their instructors want to give them. Men, that is earnest men, go to college to attain a certain degree of culture that will enable them to enjoy life and themselves and other men better. Very few of them ever attain it. Some become foot ball players, some find a branch of science in which they can easily become expert and settle down to it professionally. Most of them are blinded by the passion to excel in something and mistake knowledge for wisdom. The two are easily confounded, but their ways lead far apart: one is material, the other of the spirit.

If a college career gives a man nothing more than proficiency in some branch of science which will enable him to make his bread and butter, it has not done for him what it promised, or what he in the days of his early enthusiasm hoped it would do. To educate in its highest sense does not mean to give a man commercial training, but to give him new capacities for enjoyment and appreciation. The end of existence is to feel clean and lofty pleasure, not to know difficult facts. When a man leaves college it does not matter so much what he knows about the gerundive or the second aorists in Kappa. He will have forgotten all that in five years, anyway. But if he can get more pleasure out of the good things of life than he could four years ago, if he is better company for himself, then his education is worth his diploma and the blue ribbon too. Knowledge is so infinitely small beside the higher wisdom of life. The great problem is not to know well, but to live well.

The race for knowledge has often been compared to the old Greek torch race in which the runner must all through the race watch that his torch did not go out. So often in the hurry of the race the torch is forgotten and the runners remember only the distance and their speed, and reach the goal with only a blackened stump in their hands. The man who attains profound knowledge at the cost of his human sympathies has indeed given money for that which is not bread. It had been better for him if, like that one old Greek runner who went mad from the dazzling heat and glare of the race course, he had sat quietly down by the wayside and watched the blessed fire of his torch burn out. The distance one man can run is nothing to the infinite distance of space. It is the torch that is everything, all, that is greater than all distance, greater than the universe itself, that is the God in man.