Skip to main content
Source File: cat.nf049.xml

The Home Monthly

by unsigned. [Willa Cather]

From The Home Monthly, 6 (February 1897):  12.

The Home Monthly


Entered at the Pittsburgh postoffice as second-class matter.

Special inducements to canvassers and club-raisers. Send for terms.


Famous Letters.

The recent publication of the letters of George Sand and Victor Hugo recalls how far we have drifted from the customs of the earlier part of the century. Whoever thinks of saving letters now-a days? The old custom has died out with that of saving dance programmes and pressing boquets. Of course business communications are still "filed," but who ever thinks of preserving personal letters? Fifty years ago no one ever thought of destroying one. It was the signal of final rupture when a man burned his friend's letters. In a few old country places you will still find them, those bundles of yellow old letters in faded writing, tied up with tape or ribbon, and in most of them there is plenty of history.

Some of these old letters have been gathered up and published, like those of Victor Hugo and Byron and Lord Chesterfield, and form a most invaluable part of the world's literature. History would be full of blank spots without them. But perhaps there are very few letters written to day that are worthy of preservation. Correspondence was a fine art once, now it is merely a business convenience. We are too busy to write well, and it is an art little cultivated except by those who make a profession of it. Very few books will be made of the letters written in the later decades of the Nineteenth Century.

How Society Amuses Itself.

The latest social vagary is as usual the strangest. It seems that now the restless society women are turning their enthusiastic attention to amateur dress-making. Embroidery and "drawn work" are things of the past. It's serious dress-making now, and the belles of New York float about in gorgeous costumes of their own creation. Some of them display a great deal of talent and put their modistes to shame. What a queer world it is, and how the labor of one class becomes in turn the recreation of another! There is no doubt at all that this is the most sane and seemly fad that society has indulged in for some time past, but if it continues some one will have to start a relief fund for the unemployed dress-makers. It would be interesting to know just how many of these "home made" gowns were ripped up and re-made by some indulgent modiste before they were proudly exhibited to the wearer's credulous friends.

Another unique social diversion just now is the Chinese party, at which the hosts and guests are attired in Chinese costumes, are served with Chinese viands, play Chinese games, are regaled by Chinese music, and all by the light of Chinese lanterns. Some of these parties are extremely pretty, and the arrangement of lights and colors is a field for ingenuity and artistic taste.

A New Story on Senator Quay.

In these days of histrionic politicians whose barks go down amid the shoals of their own glittering metaphors the public feels a peculiar respect for a man who can hold his peace and saw wood. Such a man is Senator Quay of Pennsylvania, a man who knows more than he tells and thinks more than he talks. Ever since Quay engineered that difficult Harrison campaign of 1888 to victory he has been acknowledged as one of the most astute political managers in America. He has been called the "silent man of the Senate" because of his rare ability to keep things to himself until the time is ripe to utter them. He is a master of men rather than of words, and is one of those men who shun publicity and prefer to remain behind the scenes manipulating the wires by which the puppets dance. A story is told of the Senator which demonstrates that in his case the boy was certainly father to the man, and that even as a child he was shrewd rather than brilliant. Mr. Quay's father was a Scottish Presbyterian minister. He one day brought home a sword and a Bible, and announced that he would give one to his son and the other to his daughter, but that Matthew should have the first choice. Now Matthew wanted both articles, but he wanted the sword the more of the two. Yet instead of, boy-like, siezing the weapon he wanted, he stood meditating for a time and finally took the Bible, for, he argued, his sister would have very little use for the sword, and after her first interest in it had passed it would fall to him anyway, and he would ultimately possess both the coveted articles.

A Modern Man.

Prince Michael Hilkoff, the Russian Minister of Transportation, who was recently inspecting the iron works of Western Pennsylvania on his flying trip through America, is in no sense the luxurious nobleman that princes are supposed to be. While the proudest Tartar blood in the kingdom flows in his veins, he always has been and always will be a mechanic. He is a man who works with his hands as well as with his head. Few men in the iron shops of Pennsylvania have had a more laborious life than this Russian potentate. For this most practical of the ministers of Russia had a romance in his youth which threatened to wreck his whole future, but instead only served to bring out the man in him and stamp him the superior of the frivolous young men of his country. He married a young woman of inferior social position, and was estranged from his family and thrown completely on his own resources. He brought his wife to America, and finding work in Philadelphia set about making a living for her. There, some thirty years ago, the Prince was working in a machine shop for a dollar a day, friendless, in a strange country, with a young family depending on him for support. No wonder they can write great novels up in Russia, if they have men of that stripe for subjects. The man must have a will of iron and a heart of steel who can make his way through such difficulties. He was an excellent mechanic and had the push and energy of ten men. When he had slowly worked his way up to the superintendency of a South American railroad, he was recalled to Russia. The Prince has very little in common with the dawdling noblemen of his country who ape French manners and French vices. He is more American than Russian in his manner. He is thoroughly a modern man; modern in his independence, his practicality and his unrivalled business sagacity.

Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough.

When Consuelo Vanderbilt married the young Duke of Marlborough a great many unpleasant things were said about her on this side of the water. Notice that these discourtesies were confined to America. It was the American press, not the English, that published cartoons of scales with a coronet and the Vanderbilt gold bags balancing each other. It must have been rather discouraging for a girl to enter such a difficult and responsible position with such open slurs cast upon her at home. But then Americans are always more ready than any foreigner to laugh at an American. If our name is a jest in Europe we have made it so. Of course when wealth marries a title there is always a grave suspicion as to the motive, but it is just possible that Consuelo Vanderbilt had a personal motive which she did not care to exploit to the jeering American public in marrying Sir Richard Churchill. At any rate, we should give her the benefit of the doubt. This old world is sad and bad enough at best, and surely it is more generous to charge people with only the pettiness that is clearly proven. Since her marriage the young Duchess has conducted herself most admirably, and if her countrywomen can overcome their prejudice against her title they may be proud of her yet. She is not a beautiful woman, despite all the newspaper affirmations to that effect, but she has so far shown herself to be conservative and modest and free from snobbery. Her house party at Blenheim House last November, when she entertained the Prince of Wales and his friends, is considered one of the most successful and brilliant social events of the English season, and the young hostess won the affection and esteem of the first women of England. And it is no small matter to engineer a great house party successfully, even when the guests wear crowns and coronets. There were the same difficulties that beset any other woman on such an occasion. The guests criticise each other and are jealous of the hostess' attentions. The servants do the wrong thing, and the weather will not accommodate itself to the plans of entertainment. The guests must be constantly amused and flattered or they become as cross as children do when they are tired of playing. With so many people of decided individualities to adapt herself to, so many social jealousies to soothe, so many new conditions to meet and understand, surely the young Duchess must have had her hands full and must have drawn a long sigh of relief when the last carriage of the royal suite rolled away through the great park of Blenheim.