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I see that a critic in the Literary Review of 'the New York Evening Post places Dr. Crofters' book in a list suitable for the Seventh Age of Reading, for those who are post their prime and have reached the age of at least sixty. It takes all my slight remainder of youthful courage to differ from so high an authority and recommend "The Dame School of Experience" to-a much less aged audience. Essays need not so much age for their enjoyment as a conversational altitude of mind; and there has always been enough talk at Harvard, if not real conversation, to justify such a recommendation in this particular case. The book is, in other words, a fireside book like all good collections of essays. One listens to the author, smokes a meditative pipe over an especially fine paragraph, laughs at a surprisingly pat application of a familliar experience, and is ready to say at the end in Dr. Johnson's words, "Sir, we had good talk." Dr. Crofters may have held the floor all evening as Johnson did, but in this instance nobody has been tossed and gored.
Dr. Crofters is too thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the essay to adopt guch violent tactics even of matters of controversial interest. There is, for example, almost no subject, outside of the Irish question, more likely to arouse latent passion that educational theory. Does our author vociferate that the moderns are right and that the older method of hammering knowledge into resistant minds is the only true one? "The Teacher's Dilemma" never raised its tone above politeness, and yet it is of more value than much arguing. The same genial spiral marks the discussion of such other matters as efficiency, genius, reconstruction, bolshevism, and what not. All this is both to say that we have here a volume of essays in the best tradition, marked by sympathy, quiet humor, and keen judgment, expressed in a style as nearly perfect as one could demand. "Every Man's Natural Desire" and "The Hibernation of Genius" are about as firm as anything we have in the field of English essays.
What differentiates "The Dame School" from other collections of essays and makes Dr. Crofters more than "the Charles Lamb of America" can be realized more clearly, I think, in his last two papers. "The Unpreparedness of Liberalism" and "On the Evening of the New Day." Here be strikes out beyond the charming trivialties of Lamb and Hazlitt and Hunt, fraught though these terrifies often are with a deeper meaning, and enters a larger region. Old experience has reached its prophetic strain. Yet the tone remains that of the familiar essay. We become aware that this wise man, talking so informally, is able to see not merely the rabbit in his lettuce patch but the world as a whole. So we go back to "An Interview with an Educator," "The Pearls of the Literate," "Natural Enemles," and "The Pilgrima," and find that the windows of our humble room look out upon the wide, wide world. That, I venture to say, is a new development of the familiar essay. Certainly it is different from the usual vein of Mr. Edward Verrall Lucas, who is the only essayist who walks part pass with Dr. Crothers.
Thus if you are akin to those who seek a "moral" in poetry and must squeeze a "philosophy" out of essays, you can obtain very satisfactory doctrine for a true liberal in the present day. And his doctrine, as Samuel Johnson said of Dr. Blair's "is the best limited, the best expressed; there is the most warmth without fanaticism the most rational transport."
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