Source File: cat.nf048.xmlEditorial Note: Cather was the editor of the Home Monthly and therefore likely wrote much of the copy for the editorial page. However, her authorship of the articles below has not been confirmed and could be from another hand. From The Home Monthly, 6 (January 1897):  12.

The Home Monthly

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PITTSBURGH, PA., JANUARY, 1897.

The President's House.

On entering the White House Mrs. McKinley will have to face the problem of cramped quarters which has been the despair of Presidents' wives for the last decade. It is no easy matter to keep house in the White House. The business offices of the President and his clerks occupy so large a portion of the house that there is very little room left to use as a dwelling. Then the arrangement is most unfortunate for entertaining. The exits and entrances are so few and so placed that at a large reception it is exceedingly difficult to get from one room to another. The draughts in the corridors are terrible. Washington people are more convinced of these shortcomings than the rest of us, as they most frequently experience some of the consequent inconveniences.

The White House was built when the nation was a good deal younger than it is now and when entertaining was done on a small scale, small, at least, when compared to the great receptions that are given there now. But in spite of this fact the building is one of the most attractive in America. Any one who has seen it knows that. Many an American artist has wondered how, at that early date, his countrymen happened to select anything so genuinely good. If the house is enlarged it should be done without changing the exterior more than is absolutely necessary. The late Mrs. Harrison had an elaborated plan for this. To abandon the house would be more than foolish, it would be unpatriotic. For, taking them all in all, the men who lived there were not men to be ashamed of. Very few American structures are either so harmonious in design or so rich in associations.

Vanishing Myths.

Several notable efforts have been made recently to gather up some of the old Indian myths and folk lore before the old tribes go out forever and the North American Indian becomes extinct. One of the most successful efforts of this character has been made by Mr. W. S. Phillips, and he has published the results of his long study and experience among the Indians of the North Pacific coast in a volume of Indian legends called "Totem Tales," totem, it seems, being the Indian word for charm or amulet. Aside from their interest to the student of comparative myths, the stories are delightful merely as stories. Some of them, notably "The Dance of the Wind " and "The Song of the Waters," are highly poetic. Their revelations as to Indian character and characteristics are as pertinent as Joel Chandler Harris' "Uncle Remus" stories are to those of the Negro. The whole book savors delightfully of the bracing air of the Northwest, of the tall black pines and the mighty rivers of melted snow water. Among the most interesting features are the illustrations, done after the Indian fashion by the author. The author throughout uses the simple language of the tribal story teller, which adds a peculiar charm to the book and preserves much of the native Indian feeling.

No More Cribs at Harvard.

The faculty of Harvard University have officially announced that any student detected "cribbing" will be expelled publicly. While the penalty seems severe, it is certainly none too heavy if it will advance the sentiment of honor among the students. There was a time when the classics were compulsory and were forced upon every student regardless of his tastes or predilections, when cribbing was almost a pardonable offense. But now, when the elective system so prevails that a student may very largely follow the lines of his own tastes or talents, the custom is always inexcusable and should become obsolete. In most colleges it has already fallen into ill repute and almost into entire disuse. The students themselves generally disapprove of it, and after all it is the student sentiment rather than the dictum of the faculty that controls a college and is the real seat of the government.

Can a Hat Be "Immoral"?

The somewhat trivial discussion of what is right and what is wrong in dress has certainly reached its climax when one of the most noted female speakers on reform and morality has declared that "no woman who wears an egrette in her bonnet is a moral woman." She states that the plumes are torn from the mother bird in the nesting season, and paints harrowing pictures of the sufferings of the wounded bird; and because the bird suffers in losing its plumage the woman who wears egrettes is immoral. That is queer logic. As well waste sophomoric rhetoric over the suffering of the sheep when its fleece is cut away from it, and from this deduct that any one who wears flannel is immoral. The trouble is that a great many well-meaning ladies with a taste for reform don't know where to stop. One would think that in a world so sadly awry as this one, a world in which there is so much waste and suffering and sin, there would be vital questions enough to struggle with, without bothering about egrettes and bonnets. When a lady appeals to humanity and pours out floods of rhetoric in denunciation of egrettes, or hat pins, or long skirts, her eloquence very nearly amounts to bathos and burlesque. As long as there are hungry children in the world it is overdoing matters a little to devote so much attention to the birds. The time has not yet come when we can divide the just from the unjust by the egrette standard.

Another Ex-President.

Some one should invent an occupation for our ex-Presidents. They would appreciate it. Although most of them have been ready enough to accept the quietude of private life, they always seem a little aimless and at a loss. It is almost a calamity to have filled the highest national office, for it leaves absolutely nothing to look forward to. It leaves nothing to ambition.

President Cleveland has bought a magnificent old Colonial mansion in Princeton and will settle down in the university town. The Slidell house was built in 1854 by Commodore Stockton. The estate was originally purchased by the Stocktons from William Penn. Mr. Cleveland is said to have paid $40,000 for it. It is very possible that he will eventually form some connection with the university itself. University work and literature are two catholic professions that are open even to ex-Presidents. When Mr. Harrison retired from office he devoted his talents to the Leland Stanford University and the Ladies' Home Journal. By this time next year Mr. Cleveland may also be assisting Ruth Ashmore in her laudable efforts in behalf of American youth.

The Barberi Verdict.

So Marie Barberi, the murderess of Dominico Cataldo, has not only been acquitted of a crime which she undoubtedly committed, but has been fêted and toasted by the fashionable women of New York and visited by the Countess di Brazzi. There is a strange tendency to idealize criminals developing in modern civilization. Perhaps modern fiction is largely accountable for it. Certainly it is a false kind of sentimentality which leads society women who are tired of everything else in life to refresh their jaded interests by patronizing people who commit sensational crimes. If Marie Barberi had been conspicuous by reason of doing good rather than doing evil, if she had lived a quiet self-sacrificing life, devoting herself to the needs of her own people, she would have remained unknown and unnoticed until the end of time. But the instant she became a criminal she was made a heroine. It is all well enough to temper justice with mercy, but when it comes to weakening the strong right arm of justice and idealizing certain sensational forms of crime, there is something radically wrong. It is not altogether a healthy impulse which leads the fashionable women of our great cities to fill the cells of the blackest criminals with roses. It is not the spirit of philanthropy at all in most cases, but the mania for sensationalism, the same unfortunate taste which creates the demand for sensational fiction.

An honest man may struggle with the hard problems of life alone and unaided, but the moment he ceases to struggle and sinks into crime he becomes an object of universal interest and sympathy. The final effects of making crime a short cut to notoriety are not hard to conjecture.

The Poster Fad.

The poster fad is living surprisingly long. Every one thought it would have passed before this, but the green cows and yellow skies, the brown sea and the sweet pink grass are still with us. So are the women made of circles with cascades of green hair and soulful red eyes. To draw anything recognizable has become a crime in art, and a pretty face has become an abomination. The distorted figures of the poster artists would make the poor bungling old painters of the Third Century turn over in the catacombs. It is said that when Mrs. Thomas Carlyle finished reading Browning's Sordello, she turned to her husband and asked, "Thomas, what was Sordello, a town or a man?" If she couldn't tell which he must have been a poster.