The Critic in the Orient

by david on 24 October 2014

Cover of "Critic in the Orient"

Cover of “Critic in the Orient”

This book of impressions of the Far East is called The Critic in the Orient, because the writer for over thirty years has been a professional critic of new books–one trained to get at the best in all literary works and reveal it to the reader. This critical work would have been deadly, save for a love of books so deep and enduring that it has turned drudgery into pastime and an enthusiasm for discovering good things in every new book which no amount of literary trash was ever able to smother.

In 1912, San Francisco Chronicle sent critic George Hamlin Fitch was sent on a seven-month trip around the world, from which he cabled daily dispatches for publication in the newspaper. After his return, Fitch distilled his stories into a two-book set; the present volume and The Critic in the Occident (which will be featured next time). The books were published by Paul Elder in September 1913.

Title page of "Critic in the Orient"

Title page of “Critic in the Orient”

Fitch’s itinerary in the East was:

  • Japan — Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka, The Inland Sea, Nagasaki
  • Philippines — Manila
  • Hong Kong, Canton, Singapore and Rangoon
  • India — Calcutta, Benares, Delhi, Bombay
  • Egypt — Cairo, Luxor, Sailing down the Nile
Page 10 of "Critic in the Orient"

Page 10 of “Critic in the Orient”

One of the pitfalls of vintage travel literature is encountering language that we would now call patronizing or even bigoted. I am not qualified to write a comprehensive sociological criticism of Fitch’s work, but I see more to praise than to condemn. Most painful to modern ears is his use of “race” when today we would use “nationality,” and noting that India is “the seat of the Aryan civilization and that, though the Hindoo is as dark as many of the American negroes, he is of Aryan stock like ourselves.”

On the other hand, to his credit Fitch admits his preconceptions about Japan were wrong, and devotes the opening 48 pages to that country.

One of the best results of foreign travel is that it makes on revise his estimate of alien races. When I started out it was with a strong prejudice against the Japanese, probably due to my observation of some rather unlovely specimens whom I had encountered in San Francisco. A short stay in Japan served to give me a new point of view of both the people and the country of the Mikado.

Page 14 of "Critic in the Orient"

Page 14 of “Critic in the Orient”

Fitch ends with a couple valuable reference sections: “Hints for Travelers,” and, in keeping with Fitch’s belief that the literate traveler is a happy traveler, a bibliography. In the Hints section, Fitch starts by recommending which agency to use to go on your own world tour:

For a round-the-world trip the best plan is to buy a Cook’s ticket for six hundred and thirty-nine dollars and ten cents. This provides transportation from any place in the United States around the world to the starting point. The advantage of a Cook’s ticket is that this firm has the best organized force, with large offices in the big cities and with banks as agencies in hundreds of places where you may cash its money orders. This is a great convenience as it saves the risk of carrying considerable sums of money in lands where thievery is a fine art.

Of course, $639 was a huge sum in 1913, when the average worker’s salary was about half that. Then there was the matter of taking seven months off work, plus the expenses along the way. World travel, then as now, was mostly a rich man’s pastime.

Page 146 of "Critic in the Orient"

Page 146 of “Critic in the Orient”

 

Plates LVIII and LIX in "Critic in the Orient"

Plates LVIII and LIX in “Critic in the Orient”

 

Hints to the Traveler in "Critic in the Orient"

Hints for Travelers in “Critic in the Orient”

 

 

 

 

 

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Slumber Sea Chanteys

by david on 26 September 2014

Cover of "Slumber Sea Chanteys"

Cover of “Slumber Sea Chanteys”

Slumber Sea Chanteys (1910) was the only sheet music Paul Elder ever published (there are a few pages of music in Knight of the Burning Pestle). It is a selection of children’s lullabies on nautical themes. It is also the first Paul Elder I ever bought, though I only realized it five years later when I began to collect Elder in earnest.

Composer Carrie Stone Freeman was profiled in the Music section of the Los Angeles Herald on 4 Dec 1910:

Local composers were well represented at the last meeting of the Harmonia Club Thursday afternoon … Among the songs of special interest to club members were those by Mrs. John J. Abramson, president of the club and hostess for the day, and Carrie Stone Freeman. Mrs. Freeman has written successfully for the voice and her publications include not only the Slumber Sea Chanteys, which are proving so delightful for little folk to sing, but are also most beautiful for the trained singer or a real by-land song, but also “Invitation,” Twilight,” “Lullaby” and “Eastertime Psalm.”

Freeman was also profiled in the Oxnard Courier of 16 Mar 1917:

Carrie Stone Freeman in 1910.

Composer Carrie Stone Freeman in 1910.

Carrie Stone Freeman, chairman of music for Southern California Women’s club, has a new theory of learning music from nature. Mrs. Freeman is well known in this section in club work and has visited with clubs in this county many times. This is her advice: Listen to the birds and learn to sing. Try to catch and put into musical notation the clear, vibrant joyous calls of the Meadowlark and the mockingbird. Go where you will, is the big outdoors, land or water, and learn from the greatest music master in the world–Nature.

Here is the unique “teachology” of a brilliant Los Angeles woman who bids fair to catch the eye of the nation with her simple solution for developing one of the primal instincts of man–love of music. She is Carrie Stone Freeman, state chairman of music for the Los Angeles and Southern districts of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs. “Trying to catch the notes of the birds,” said Mrs. Freeman, “not only gives a person the opportunity to learn some of the truest sound values, but it also trains the ear. “Spare moments can be utilized for this study, for instance, while a train stops on a siding, while you are standing waiting for a car, if at some interurban point where the fields are at hand or as you sit in your garden reading or sewing. The birds are everywhere.”

Mrs. Freeman is speaking to club women in almost every part of the state, so popular is her subject proving. Just a few days ago she received a manuscript copy of the new song written by the well known American composer, Mrs. H. H. A. Beach; words by Ina Coolbrith of San Francisco. It is dedicated to Mrs. Freeman and is called “Meadowlark.” The motif of the composition is one of the meadowlark calls which Mrs. Freeman frequently uses in announcing her arrival at the artistic Freeman home at the western terminus of Sixteenth Street. Mrs. Beach heard her using it, while a house-guest, and begged permission to build a song on it.

Asked what she thinks of “ragtime,” Mrs. Freeman said “I don’t think. It was a tidal wave for a while and naturally it is receding. I think it will soon die altogether. I never talk against it. I simply offer something better in its stead.”

Co-author Lucia Chase Bell (1848-1938) also wrote the Elder publication Obil, Keeper of Camels. Her husband, Thomas Cowan Bell (1832-1919), was one of the founders of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

I can find no information about co-author and illustrator Rita Bell James.

Title page of "Slumber Sea Chanteys"

Title page of “Slumber Sea Chanteys”

Page 3 of "Slumber Sea Chanteys"

Page 3 of “Slumber Sea Chanteys”

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The True Historie of the Knyght of the Burning Pestle

8 September 2014

In March 1903, the English Club of Stanford University performed a production of “The Knight of the Burning Pestle,” an early 17th-century pastiche play by the English poet and dramatist Francis Beaumont. The English Club performed the work at both Stanford and UC Berkeley, and went so far as to write a short book about it. That […]

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The Auto Guest Book

1 September 2014

On an inventive twist from a guest book designed for the guest bedroom, here is a guest book designed for one’s automobile. The Auto Guest Book was published in 1906 on the heels of the success of the early Cynic’s Calendars, with the illustrations and aphorisms by the team of Ethel Grant (1876?-1940) and Richard Glaenzer (1876-1937). In […]

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San Francisco — As It Was, As It Is, And How To See It

27 August 2014

After Paul Elder opened his bookshop in 1898, it is perhaps surprising that he waited fourteen years to publish a book about San Francisco. Maybe it just took him that long to find the right author. Helen Throop Purdy’s comprehensive guide to the City, San Francisco — As It Was, As It Is, And How To See […]

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Robert Harlan (1929-2014)

24 August 2014

Today I pause to remember Robert Harlan, professor emeritus at the UC Berkeley School of Information and the Bancroft Library. He died on April 8th at the age of 84. He was an expert on the 19th-century San Francisco printing industry and the Bay Area fine-printing movement of the mid-20th century. He published several books, including a long […]

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Love

4 April 2014

Love (1905) was the last of the Mosaic Essays series compiled by Paul Elder. The first booklet in the series, Friendship, was published in 1902 and sold very well. In 1903, Elder followed with Happiness, Nature and Success in 1903. In 1906 he reissued the five booklets in a single volume called Mosaic Essays. As with the other four titles […]

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Success

30 March 2014

Success is a booklet of quotations in the Mosaic Essays series, compiled by Paul Elder. It was published in 1903 along with Happiness and Nature in response to the high sales of 1902′s Friendship. In 1905, Elder published the last booklet in the series, Love. In 1906 he issued the five booklets in a single volume called Mosaic Essays. As with the other booklets […]

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Nature

23 March 2014

Nature is a booklet of quotations in the Mosaic Essays series, compiled by Paul Elder. It was published in 1903 along with Happiness and Success in response to the success of 1902′s Friendship. In 1905, Elder published the last booklet in the series, Love. In 1906 he issued the five booklets in a single volume called Mosaic Essays. […]

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Happiness

16 March 2014

In a corner of San Francisco’s Portsmouth Square stands a granite pedestal topped by a bronze sailing ship. It is the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial, designed by Bruce Porter and Willis Polk in 1897. During Stevenson’s brief time in San Francisco in 1880 and 1887, he often came to the Square to sit in the […]

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