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A possible explanation of the foreign unpopularity of the United States may be found in the statement of Dr. Herbert Adams Gibbons, Princeton professors that "in the most remote regious of Europe one finds Hollywood setters the fashions in clothes and the way people live in their homes." Small wonder that a nation whose ambassadors include such glamorous gentlemen as John Gilbert, Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson; such intoxicating ladies as Miss Swanson, Miss Naldi and Miss Daniels should create alarm. Domestic life in Hollywood is not generally accepted as typical of domestic life in points north and east; nor is the dress affected by members of Mr. Sennett's school entirely representative of American womanhood.
America understands her movies, for she realizes that there has never been as easy an escape from reality. But America as yet does not live and die by her celluloid deities. From the horse operas of Mr. Mix one would gain the impression that the only buildings west of the Mississippi were log cabins, that the only inhabitants were cowboys and Indians. And life in New York is really not a beaten track between the Ritz and the night clubs.
The emigrants' disillusion starts with Ellis Island and, if one cares for further investigation, ends-only with the Golden Gate. Even Hollywood, the alabaster Hollywood, has its conventional citizens, men who wear something besides chaps or full dress, women who do not appreciate the potentialities of a tiger skin. Like amusing children, the movies are a national pet; like amusing children, they often annoy the neighbors.
On the other hand there are pedants and scholars in this country sufficient to place a Widener Library containing annotated editions of the minor poets of all times on the Main street of every village. Excellent men, lovers of poetry, they are in no sense creative--and can inspire scholarship alone--never creative art. Like their lesser brethren, the gentlemen of the Anderson, Masters like, they can not hope to effect anything in the particular variety of endeavor for which the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship of Poetry was endowed. So in the choice of Gilbert Murray is revealed a precision and accuracy of judgment truly to be commended.
Yet the aptitude of Professor Murray for this work can too easily dwarf the proportions of any potential successor. Such must not be the case. Fear must not allow the University to fail in gaining the full advantage of such an endowment by provoking an appointment from within. One of the clearest advantages of this professorship is that it brings to Harvard, in succeeding years, men from without whose viewpoint is it similar in intellectual background, different in that it has developed in another atmosphere among other scenes. It will not be impossible to find such men for this position, uniquely difficult as it is. Cambridge, this last summer, has vibrated to the intense vigor of the too often misunderstood T. S. Eliot. And, though he lacks the maturity which is to mold his work into even more adequate accomplishment, Stack Young is admirably equipped for just such a task.
The tradition, a noble one, has been established by the choice of Gilbert Murray for the premier occupant of Harvard's chair of poetry. Its novelty can in no way mar its worth. Yet only by sincere community of interest and clarity of vision can the University develop and continue that tradition to the fullest glory of its man fest potentiality.
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