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The Home Monthly

by unsigned. [Willa Cather]

From The Home Monthly, 6 (December 1896):  12.

The Home Monthly


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Mrs. Castle's Kleptomania.

No other criminal case this season has excited the interest attendant on that of Mrs. Walter Castle, of San Francisco. The Castles are wealthy Californians of high social standing who were spending the season in London. Mrs. Castle made frequent shopping tours among the largest retail houses, and finally aroused suspicion. Her apartments were searched and in her trunks were found a number of valuable articles including eighteen real tortoise-shell combs, seven hand-mirrors of ivory and tortoise-shell, five tortoise-shell eye-glasses, seventeen fans, sixteen furs, etc. The line of defense taken up by Mrs. Castle's attorney was, of course, that of kleptomania. But English courts of justice are not easily fooled by high sounding names. The English people have always had a peculiar reverence for law, a peculiar horror of crime. Ever since the days of Alfred the Saxon it has been so. Not a century ago theft was a capital offense. Many a man lost his life for some petty larceny in the England of the Sixteenth Century. It was not easy for an English jury to regard this crime of a woman whom circumstances had placed beyond the ordinary temptations of crime as a light matter. She was at first given a short sentence of imprisonment without labor. Finally, through the intercessions of the American consul and the frantic endeavors of her husband and attorney, the woman was freed altogether. The press of England censures the verdict and rightly enough. If Mrs. Castle had been a poor woman who had stolen a cloak to keep herself warm, she would have paid the penalty of the law. But because she had not that bitter temptation to theft, because she had sealskins and furs of her own; because her action was merely a caprice of moral disease, she is pardoned. Is there such a thing as theft being a disease any more than murder is? Carry out this "disease" theory and you abolish moral law and moral restraint altogether. Of course there are inherited impulses that may influence the individual, but the tendency of modern science is to lsseen responsibility altogether too much. The only safe hypothesis of conduct in actual life is that as long as the individual has control over his mind at all he is accountable for and responsible for his actions. It is only when his reason is completely shattered that this responsibility ceases. Why is Mrs. Castle, any more than any other thief, the victim of kleptomania? The fact that she did not need the goods she took seems only to add a peculiar ugliness to the crime. In the poor crimes are called by short names, and very harsh ones; in the rich they are called by long words with Greek roots and are not crimes at all. Among people who are driven by hunger and want and cold, gnawed to the bone by poverty, theft is a crime. Among people who live always in summer, who wear furs and ride in carriages, it is a disease. In the rich man drunkenness becomes "alcoholism" and theft becomes "kleptomania." In the vocabulary of the fashionable world there is a polished word to cover every form of moral depravity.

"Ian Maclaren" as a Minister.

So much is said and written of Dr. Watson as a writer that one is apt to forget that he has never abandoned his work as a minister. Yet the man had made a name for himself in the pulpit long before he ever published anything. Any one who has had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Watson during his American tour knows that he is a powerful and entertaining speaker. He speaks with that force and positiveness which ministers of broad intelligence attain in a land where the clergy are regarded as preeminently above the mass of men as they are in Scotland. The same keen sympathy for all sorts and conditions of men that is the great charm of his writing evinces itself also in his speech. His sermons have often been compared to those of Charles Kingsley, so frankly democratic are they, so boldly he champions the workmen of his people. His sermons are addressed to citizens, to all well meaning men, as well as to churchmen. He is a man of the times and for the people.

Dr. Watson was born in Essex in 1850. His mother's maiden name was Maclaren and his father was employed in the civil service. He entered the University of Edinburgh when he was sixteen, but devoted himself chiefly to the study of letters and attained no great distinction as a scholar. He was brilliant rather than studious. After his graduation he surprised his friends by accepting a small charge in a church of less than one hundred communicants in Logiealmond, in Perthshire. He threw himself heartily into his work and to his close study of and sympathy with his humble parishioners he owes many of his most admirable stories. He knew how to get into people's lives and how to learn from life itself—a thing that few men ever do. Later he went to Glasgow, and is now pastor of one of the most influential churches in Liverpool. He was known as one of the strong men of Liverpool for a dozen years or more before he published "The Bonnie Brier Bush." Indeed, during the first part of his ministerial career he abjured the press altogether. If he wrote he never published.

It has been rumored that Dr. Watson has been or will be offered one of the largest churches in New York. New York has long entertained the sweet belief that it can buy anything or any man under the sun, but it is not likely that it will buy Dr. Watson. He is not a man who could be picked up on a bargin counter.

Kate Field's Ashes in Mount Auburn.

It seems that after so much uncertainty Kate Field's ashes are finally to rest in Mount Auburn Cemetery. The body arrived in San Francisco recently on the steamer from Honolulu and was there cremated according to Miss Field's wish. The same unrest and changeful chance that followed this gifted woman all through her life time seems to still pursue her after death. The peace and quiet common to most women's lives were never hers. She was all-ambitious, all-hopeful; she was an actress, a musician, a journalist, an essayist. In every vocation she touched she was alike brilliant, gifted, unsatisfied and unsuccessful. She was a type of the real new woman; the woman who is lonely and unsatisfied, who thirsts to achieve, and who somehow falls below the mark and dies disappointed. A beautiful type sometimes, always a sad one. The fitful fever which burned up her life seems not even to have given her rest in death.

How Paris Entertained the Czar.

How did she entertain him? Was there anything she did not do to entertain him? Was there a butcher, a cabman, a stallkeeper in all Paris who did not put on his Sunday best and assist in that magnificent fête? All Paris, and Hugo said that means all France, united in one great act of veneration. The trees had shed their leaves. What matter? The parks were dressed out with paper foliage, the bare flower beds were refilled with hot-house plants. The bridges and arches were decorated and the Seine was a veritable serpent of fire. The streets were blockaded with people, all the great courses of traffic were stopped. The French are still a nation of school boys. They brought out all their time-honored celebrities to amuse the Czar. Coquelin read for him, Delna sang for him, Bernhardt recited for him. Nothing could be more laughably inconsistent, more characteristically French than the exaggerated fervor with which this nation of the tricolor, this people whose motto is liberté, égalité, et fraternité, received this master of the greatest despotism on earth. The French republic has always been something of a joke anyway, for no people on earth are at heart so wedded to monarchial idols. They are royalists to the bone, and if there is one thing they like better than destroying a king, it is making one. Paris has not known such a demonstration as this since Napoleon's time. As some one has said, What a fuss to make over a man who has never done anything except to be born!

Another Poem by Whittier.

In the January number of THE HOME MONTHLY will appear the last and in all respects the best poem of the Whittier series entitled "The Indian's Tale." In it the young poet handled a theme of the old wild tribes of his native woods and displayed the vigor of his more mature work. In the same number will appear an essay of considerable length on New England Superstitions by Whittier, written at Haverhill in 1831. We can confidently announce that this is one of the most interesting and meritorious of Whittier's prose productions. The essay is enriched here and there by Whittier's own verses and is written with that incomparable enthusiasm with which he always handled New England themes.