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With the June, 1896, issue the existence of THE LADIES' JOURNAL, of Pittsburgh, came to an end, and with this initial number THE HOME MONTHLY takes its place. Passing into new hands and under new management, it will be seen that the publication is very materially changed in character and make up, enters a much wider field in literature, and essays a correspondingly broader mission.
Of our country it can perhaps be said more truthfully than of any other in the world that it is a land of homes. Our people as a rule are not mere sojourners; and especially is this true of the populous region of which the city of Pittsburgh is the geographical center. Within a hundred miles of the desk at which these lines are written three millions of people live and more than a half million firesides may be found. A very moderate lengthening of the radius of the circle will bring within its limits as many more people and homes; and doubling the radius will place these figures away up above ten millions.
It has seemed to the projectors of this enterpise that there is no publication in all the region in question reasonably well adapted to fill a niche in all its better class of homes, metropolitan, suburban and rural. No single publication can of course be made to win and hold a place in all of these homes; yet it is our purpose to more nearly cover this ground than has yet been attempted, at the same time reaching into much more distant fields. It is hoped to accomplish this end by a careful utilization of rare facilities enjoyed for years past in the study of American home life and its needs, and prompt and unhesitating action right in line with such further discoveries as may be made.
THE HOME MONTHLY is not ambitious of becoming a dignified review, nor is it to be used only as a vehicle for the dissemination of fashion gossip and culinary recipes. It is equally certain that it shall not be made a mere purveyor of sensational and unwholesome fiction. As its plans are developed it will be seen that every phase of home needs will receive attention, together with the work of the reviewer, while the best story-writers of the country will furnish entertainment for the idle hour.
Only talent of a high order will he employed, although a little time will be required for the organizing of such a corps of contributors as is desired. Nothing need be said further than that these pages will be kept pure and clean in tone, and that all plans for THE HOME MONTHLY center in the aim to entertain, to educate, to elevate.
In behalf of the hosts of young girls of respectable, but not wealthy, parentage, who are desirous of securing a liberal education, we want to protest against the disposition shown in so many of the women's colleges to make the rates of tuition almost prohibitive to all except the wealthy. The catalogues of some of these institutions are so worded as to express what is tantamount to a boast that none but the rich can afford to enjoy the advantages which they offer. A careful reading between the lines can result in no other conclusion.
No one can object to such rates as will amply equip the colleges for carrying on their work, and afford a good margin of profit beside; but it is unworthy of any institution ostensibly devoted to education to make the purse the first and foremost consideration in the fitness of candidates for its honors. And yet that is the unqualified tendency of the position assumed by a number of the female colleges scattered over the country.
The masses are finding a needed compensation for this in the marked elevation of the standards of the high schools supported by taxation in many of our large cities. The drift of the times points to a period when the curriculum of the average high school will compare quite favorably with that of the much more pretentious institutions. Indeed the margin of difference is steadily and rapidly narrowing; and we must not be surprised if the high schools of the next generation should confer degrees satisfactory to the most ambitious of our young people.
This is a decade of resuscitations. Lincoln, Washington and Napoleon have all been trunelled out into public notice like the Jarley wax figures of ancient renown. But of all these resurrections the most far-fetched is that of Jeanne d' Arc. Lincoln and Napoleon at least lived within the period of reliable annals. However greatly their virtues may be exaggerated, their work was actual and is still in evidence. But the Maid of Orleans is a name handed down from the darkest and most chaotic century of French history, about whom even such a romanticist as Lamartine pretended to know very little. In Henry VI Shakespeare shows plainly how lightly she was regarded among the English of his day, though with that strange trick of his of foreseeing the future as well as knowing the past, he says, "No longer shall we on Saint Dennis cry, But Joan, la Pucelle, be France's saint."
And only a few years ago Jeanne was indeed sainted by the Roman church. Since then we have had sketches and biographies of her galore, Mr. Andrew Lang's "Monk of Fife" and Mark Twain's "Personal Recollections" with their inimitable savor of Mississippi steamboat life and studies in Yankee character. Now the truth is, that as little is known about Jeanne d' Arc as about any other historical character, and that is certainly very little. Her name was but a legend of purity in an age of corruption.
This popularizing of long-dead heroes often is as detrimental to the hero as it is tiresome to the public. A man's character must be very great indeed to be able to stand the critical investigation of a time and people much later and nearer the better ideals of life than his own. With rare exceptions every man of history who has been resurrected, and made the subject of universal investigation, has at last gone back to his crumbling sepulcher a much smaller man than he came forth. Jeanne d' Arc has been for centuries a beautiful abstraction, a misty ideal toward which every mind turned with reverence. This effort to bring out her character clearly and in detail has added nothing to its beauty or power, and has made the American public heartily sick of the name of the Maid of Orleans. If the world could only concede to the dead past the right of sepulture, there would be fewer tired people in it.
No literature is more full of meaning, more worthy of study, than the early verse of a man who afterward achieves a high and honorable place in literature. Before he has learned any of the later lessons of art, while he still speaks in the numbers natural to him, something of his own original individuality seems to shine out that is lost in his mature work. About the youth of a poet there is always something doubly sacred. In the September number of THE HOME MONTHLY will appear a number of hitherto unpublished poems by John G. Whittier, with a number of his unpublished prose writings. The collection of manuscripts has been secured from an old gentleman still residing in Haverhill, a friend of Whittier's boyhood. These, with new information about Whittier's life, will form one of the leading features of our next issue. For that number we have also engaged Miss Louise Stockton, the gifted sister of Frank R. Stockton, and director of the famous Round Robin Reading Club, to write on literature in the home. Her article will be entitled "The Book in the Hand."
THE problem of summer reading is being discussed again among people and by periodicals. That phrase '"summer reading" is always just a little bit irritating, as if books, like butter, were affected by the temperature. But often if the books are not, their readers are, and it is not every book that you care to take with you on your summer vacation. Even a robust intellect must flinch from Herbert Spencer or Locke when the thermometer is a hundred in the shade and the mosquitos are buzzing outside the windows. Philosophy is a burden at any season, and in the summer it is not to be thought of. But why people select this exhausting time of the year when palm leaf fans and soda fountains alone make life worth living, to devour trashy fiction, is the open question. Is there anything on earth more tiresome than a poorly written novel? Plato on the Soul is thrilling and sensational compared to one. When will people learn that it is not their solemn duty to endure the stupidity of inferior yellow-backs? While you are picking out good trout lines and good tents and good rifles, for your outing, pick a few good novels. Poor ones are just like cheap goods of any kind. It is not every book that can keep up with the world in the summer time, or that is good enough to take into the woods. There are only two kinds of literature, good and bad, and if you are not equal to the good, you had better let it alone altogether.