At the Mermaid Inn

The Globe, Toronto: June 18, 1892


       The happiest man is he who has cultivated to the utmost the sense of beauty. The man who is able at all times to find perfect and prolonged satisfaction in the contemplation of a tree, a field, a flower or a "spear of grass," can never be bored save by his fellow-creatures. For him life is full of variety; every moment comes to him laden with some unique enjoyment, every hour is crowded with a multitude of fleeting but exquisite impressions. If health and a reasonable destiny attend him he cannot be otherwise than happy; pessimism for him is impossible. The beautiful is everywhere about us. As a matter of fact, there is nothing fashioned by nature herself that is not beautiful, either in itself or in its relation to its surroundings. You do not need to go to the Rocky Mountains or the Yosemite Valley in order to find the beautiful; it is in the next field; it is at your feet. Wherever there is earth and any live or growing thing not perverted by the hand of man, there is a study in beauty that one cannot exhaust. The capacity for the enjoyment of natural beauty is rare in its perfection. He whose first impulse on projecting an excursion into the country is to carry with him a gun or fishing rod are an encumbrance. Even the scientist—great as is the enjoyment to be derived from the mere acquisition of knowledge—does not expreience the illimitable delight that falls to the lot of the pure loafer who has accustomed his eye to the perception of every beauty. To such a man as John Burroughs or Bradford Torrey life cannot offer any greater good than they have; and this serene source of satisfaction is in a greater or less degree within the reach of every man, if he will but accustom himself to the intelligent use of his senses.

       The other day I read in one of our papers that many leading western miners are at present visiting the Canadian gold mines at Marmora, attracted by the successful working of the Crawford gold separator, which has rendered these hitherto unworkable mines payable concerns, and that Mr. Erastus Wiman controld the North American working of this machine. Now, I happen to know the particulars of Mr. Crawford's career, having been brought up in the same vicinity. It is not many years ago that Mr. Crawford was a poor boy on a small farm on the shores of Colpoy's Bay, an inlet of Georgian Bay. Without any more learning than the common education of a country school, and not too much of that, he had to depend altogether upon his remarkable native genius, which struggled with all odds and through many viscissitudes and reverses. As a boy he was a born inventor, and early turned his attention to solving the problem of perpetual motion, as many a genius has done before him. His first practical effort was the invention of a flour-bolter, which was a decided sucess and attracted some attention, but for some reason was a financial failure. But Mr. Crawford was not to be daunted. He next turned his attention to a cotton-seed separator, for which he got $50,000 for the American right alone. Then he tried his genius at a long-sought-for but vainly desired machine, one that would decrease the price of separating gold ore so as to make many mines workable that otherwise would be valueless. I am not well enough informed on the subject to statet he exact revolution Mr. Crawford has worked by his wonderful invention, but sufficient to state that he has rendered many mines, all over the world, rich in resources hard to be got at comparatively easy to work. He owns more patents in different countries fo the world than any other man. He has enriched himself, but has done it by his own genius, which has been of the greatest benefit to others. I understand that a great company of Englishmen and Americans have the sole control of Mr. Crawford's wonderful invention and are engaged in reopening all the mines in many countries that so far have proved valueless.


Within the chamber where the young girl lay,
The early light lapsed through the unconscious air,
No sound of all the sounds of life was there,
Only the quiet of death. The breaking day
Brought back the familiar forms in softer grey;
The covered table, and the plain, worn chair;
The low-draped couch before the window, where
The mute blue gentian drooped and pined away.

So still—it seemed as if kind death had said:
Before they find you, for a little while
Have rest, here where no rest might be;
Have comfort for pained hands and weary head.
Look up, beloved, see the angels smile!
See the fair threshold of eternity.

       The literature of the day in America, as far as fiction, poetry and criticism are concerned, is concentrated in the magazines. These publications are attracting to them most of our literary and artistic effort. All classes of literary people complain that it is only writing for the magazines that pays. The magazines, therefore, must be exercising a very strong formative influence on contemporary American literature. This influence, I think, we see in the growing disposition of American writers to confine themselves to brief efforts, short stories, short poems and the like, and to aim at artistic perfection rather than free, spontaneous expression. The influence of the magazine in this and some other respects is, I think, decidedly harmful. They are avowedly published for the benefit of the average educated reader and the average educated reader does not desire anything very original, unless, indeed, it have the good fortune to retouch in a particular way some common chord of feeling. The magazines therefore do not look for original work, but for work of a high order of excellence in veins which editors understand to be popular with the mass of the better reading public. The man, then, who undertakes to supply the magazines must begin by sacrificing originality, and he must cultivate a certain sort of thing. That sort of thing he will soon learn by reading the magazines. For a nation of 65,000,000 the number of really original writers in the United States is extraordinarily small, and, though this result is owing to various causes, it seems to me that the magazines have a good deal to do with it. The man who desires to develop an original literary gift had better beware of writing "for" the magazines. Let him sell his work to the magazines after he has written it, if he can; but let him never set to work beforehand with the purpose of writing something for a magazine. If he once make a custom of doing that he is done for.