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Mar 7 1903


The Montreal Herald, Saturday, March 7, 1903

The Social Burden

In the course of a recent interview in regard to social customs, Rev. Dr. Johnston, of London, Ont., remarked: "I find more men complaining of the increased demands of social life upon their wives and daughters, and in a measure upon themselves. I find, too, more women complaining of weariness as a result of incessant demands that entertaining is making upon them...It is positive cruelty to business men and young fellows who must be on duty in the morning at 8 o'clock to demand of them several nights in succession where they shall be required to stay until 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning."

It is surprising, when one considers the palpable and generally recognized absurdity and folly of our methods of amusing ourselves, that there are not more outcries against the burden of social entertainment, and that those that are made are so little heeded.

It would be a ludicrous if it were not so lamentable a spectacle to see nine-tenths of one-half the world wearing itself out in the frenzied pursuit of pleasures which do not please and recreations which fail to recreate, while nine-tenths of the other half bewails itself in bitterness of spirit because it cannot afford to do the same. When will the hostess who entertains on a grand scale because her friends "demand" it of her, and the friends who attend her entertainment because their hostess "demands" it of them, call a truce and agree to allow each other to live in peace and quietness, and cut the thing down to a reasonable limit? When will people learn that moderation is the keystone of pleasure, and simplicity the secret of enjoyment? It is simply astonishing when we calculate the amount of time we devote to what we intend for amusement, how little common sense we apply to its selection. A man will spend night after night, far into the morning, perhaps, in formal entertainments, which bore him to death, when he knows in his heart of hearts that he would get infinitely more enjoyment out of a book and an easy chair at home, or a visit to a picture gallery, or a chat by the fireside of some congenial friend whom the press of engagements never permits him to see. He will attend the theatre until it becomes monotonous to him, while all the comedy and tragedy that comes before him in real life are lost upon him. He will fulfill social engagements like a hero martyr, until he has neither time not inclination to be social to the men who rub shoulders with him in the day's grind.

Why do they do it? Who can tell? To me it is one more proof of the existence of a personal devil whose delight is to turn every pursuit of humanity into slavery.

The Peculiarities of Accidents

It is a pretty general conviction that all our new and wonderful devices measuring higher speed in travelling, more ease and convenience in the operation of almost every branch of the productive industry, more comforts and luxuries in homes and households, have an offset in some degree in the increased risks we run at every turn and the real perils we encounter while we indulge ourselves in these new and improved ways of life. And this theory is proved by the recent census report of the United States, which shows that the proportion of deaths from accidental causes in 1900 was 57.6 in a total of 1,000 deaths from all causes. In 1890 the proportion was only 53.7. Some curious facts brought out by this same report are that the death rate due to accidents and injuries is highest among persons 45 years old and over, that the average age of death from accidents is about 33.5 years, and that the warmer months show a larger proportion of fatal accidents than the cooler ones. In March the country is a more dangerous place to live than in the city, and in May and June the reverse is true. It also appears that a person is twice as likely to die from accident as from old age, and than accidents happen more frequently and kill more persons in the Rocky Mountain regions and on the Pacific coast than in the Atlantic States.

On the whole it appears that nearly 6 per cent of all the deaths in the United States are due to accidental injuries. One obvious moral to be drawn from all this would seem to be the increasing need of exercising caution among the complexities of modern life.

The Human and the Inhuman

The London Spectator is not enamored of American business life as depicted in Frank Norris' powerful novel, "The Pit." It says: "It is difficult for any one who brings any intelligence to bear on the perusal of such a work as "The Pit" to escape the oppressive significance of Mr. Norris' picture of the conflict between the human and the inhuman elements in the America of to-day. The dramatic personae are dominated by the great forces at the back of them, by the teeming earth, the monstrous machinery of production and distribution, and (in the drama before us) by the colossal organization of the great game of speculation. The absorption of the American businessman in his occupation has often puzzled English observers. Mr. Norris enable us to understand it and realize the romance and fascination of a life in which there is no room for culture or leisure, and where men toil that their woman-folk may have a good time. Seen through his eyes, Chicago loses the aspect of a chaotic wilderness of bricks and mortar, and is invested with a huge menacing and non-human personality in which the individual is dwarfed to nothingness... This is in very brief outline, the plot of a really striking novel, written with a nervous energy attuned to its theme, but curiously devoid of charm or distinction of style. It derives value, however, apart from the grandiose conception of a soul-devouring and domesticity-destroying mammon worship, from its being an essentially American product--and from the light that it throws on the feverish concentration of the American temperament."

A Curious Religious Colony

One of the queerest cities ever built was that erected near the headwaters of the Rio Pecos, in New Mexico, by Julian Ericson and his followers, about the middle of last century.

Ericson was an American of Norwegian decent, and inherited some money, together with a taste for occult mysticism, from his father, a Swedenborgian carpenter and contractor. He early came under influence of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, but quarreled with his leader and started to found an entirely new sect of his own, the cardinal principle of which was the transmigration of the souls of the faithful while yet on earth. That is to say, he promised that his disciples should, at an early date, be changed into doves, eagles, lions, or, in fact, into whatever beast or bird they choose.

It seems scarcely credible that such an absurd, not to say nauseous, doctrine should have succeeded, even for a time, in attracting converts; but there would seem no limit to human credulity and gullibility in such matters. Some hundreds of enthusiasts threw in their lot with him, and, following the example of the Mormons, marched westward from the settled states into the great western wilds. They finally brought up in what is now San Miguel County, and built a town of frame houses, at the back of each of which was a cage or den suitable to the needs of the particular animal or bird they expected shortly to become.

Of course, the promise of Ericson came to nothing, and in the end he and a number of disappointed disciples were killed in battle with Apaches. The others scattered to various parts, the majority going to California to dig for gold; and the stronger of the cages, those erected for the would-be tiger men and lion woman, were afterward utilized for a brief period as places of confinement for refractory converts.



(The editor of this column invites readers of The Herald to contribute question of a literary, scientific or miscellaneous nature, which will be answered, as space will permit. The contributorís name and address should be given, but only initials or a nom de plume will be used for publication).

Medical Question

Reader of Herald, Perth, Ont.--Ans.--Your question concerning your complaint is under consideration, and will be referred to by correspondence, or in this column later on.

A Chinese Honeymoon

Montrealer--Did the above named play now on the boards in Montreal have a good run in other and larger cities?

Ans.--It was put on the boards more than five hundred times in London, Eng. And was expected to complete its sixth hundredth consecutive production.

Origin of the Filibuster

H.T.M., Prescott, Ont.,--1. What is the origin of the term filibusters? 2. When and how did the practice of filibustering begin?

Ans--1 and 2. It was once believed that this term originated from the River Vly, in Holland, on which steam small sailing vessels of less than one hundred tons were met with frequently during the seventeen century. They were called "flyboats," either from their great speed or from the name of the river; they were, however, met with in other parts of Holand. The Spanish called them "filibote" or "filibote." The buccaneers of the West Indies who at first used rowboats at length adopted the flyboat for their practical expeditions. Hence the Spanish began to call these men "filibusteros," the French "filibusters." The use of the term latterly became more general, and was applied to all pirates. More modern authorities now repudiate this derivation, and claim that the term is derived from the Danish "fribytter," from which came the later German term "ferbeuter," and the French "fribuster," the "s" not being sounded. The term freebooter has the latter origin. In a Dutch work, "De Americaensche Zee Rookers," published 1678, the inhabitants of the West Indies are thus classed: 1. Buccaneers or hunters; 2. Filibusters or Rookers; 3. Habitants or settlers. A filibuster is a person who fits out a warlike expedition not recognized by any national government; this is the present signification of the term.

The modern term as above has been in use since 1855, and was taken by United States subjects against South American countries of which the most noteworthy was that of Willie Walker to Nicaragua. Vexatious parliamentary or congressional tactics all bear the name "filibustering," such calling for adjournment for a count of the vote, etc., to weary the opposite party.

The Curfew, Ancient and Modern

Pater, Kingston, Ont.--1. Is the ancient practice of ringing the curfew bell still kept up in England? 2. When was the modern curfew ringing established in Canada? 3. Is it effective?

Ans.--1. The curfew bell still rings in parts of England. I have heard it, for instance, rung from the parish church of Battle, Sussex, in the year 1890. It rings in this part of the country at 9 p.m. from what I remember. It is here, however, used merely as the survival of an ancient custom, and to mark the time of day, or, rather, night. At Battle, curfew ringing is begun each year on October 1. 2. The modern curfew was initiated some years ago in the United States, and an act was passed making its establishment permissible in Ontario in 1892. The Ontario act forbids any person under sixteen years of age to be upon the streets after a certain hour (in the cities 9 p.m.) unless in the company of a parent or other adult guardian. 3. Rev. Wilbur F. Craft, an authority on this subject reports that the custom of curfew ringing has proved of great utility in decreasing juvenile crime in the United States. In Ontario the act provides that the procession by the child of a freshly written permit, or letter, signed by the parents or guardians, shall exempt him or her from arrest. Two years ago the enforcement of the curfew was mooted for Halifax and other places in Nova Scotia, but many opposed it because of its difficulty of enforcement.

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