Open main menu

The Dial/Volume 15/Number 169/The Literature Congresses


The Dial has given, from time to time, accounts of the remarkable series of gatherings planned for the Exposition season by the World's Congress Auxiliary. These Congresses, which have been uninterruptedly in progress since the middle of May, are designed to cover all the important fields of intellectual activity, and each of them has been placed in charge of a competent local committee of arrangements, with full power to plan the sessions and extend invitations to those whom it is desirable should participate. Up to the present time, the Congresses have dealt with the work of representative women, with the public press, medicine, temperance, social reform, and with the problems of commerce and finance. The Congresses of the present month will include the three subjects of music, literature, and education, subjects relating to the higher aspects of culture, and thus making a particular appeal to the constituency addressed by The Dial. We propose, in the present article, to outline the more important features of the Literature Congresses planned for the week beginning with the tenth of July.
Literature, as used in connection with these gatherings, is a term to be taken in a broad sense, as appears from the primary classification of the work to be done. Five sections have been established, dealing respectively with libraries, history, philology, folk-lore, and literature proper. The work of the five sections will be carried on at the same time, and throughout the greater part of the week; but the programmes have been arranged, as far as it has been found possible to do so, with the view of bringing into session, at a given time, the interests least likely to conflict with one another, so that those in attendance upon the respective sections may not be unduly disturbed by the promptings of a divided duty. Thus the members of any one section will be free to attend those meetings of the others most likely to be attractive to them. The real work of the Congresses will begin on Tuesday, the evening of the preceding Monday being given up to an informal reception to the visiting members and the interested resident public.
The Congress of Librarians, in charge of a committee having Mr. F. H. Hild, of the Chicago Public Library, as chairman, will be superimposed upon the regular annual conference of the American Library Association. The Congress proper will probably occupy four sessions, and for these sessions more than a score of papers have been secured. The conference of the Association is planned to occupy three further sessions, for which the programmes have been arranged by the officers of that body. The public has always taken much interest in the meetings of the Library Association, and the meeting of this summer, with its unusual features, will probably be the most important ever held, as well as the most fruitful in practical outcome. The profession of the librarian is growing in importance every year, and the public is coming more and more fully to recognize that librarians are not merely collectors and custodians of books, that the function of facilitating to the public use the libraries under their charge is at least as important as any other that they are called upon to exercise.
The work of the section devoted to historical literature has been undertaken with the cooperation of the American Historical Association, by a committee having as chairman Dr. W. F. Poole, of the Newberry Library. Six sessions are planned, and for them have been collected upwards of thirty papers, mostly by American writers and upon American subjects. The healthful activity of local historical studies has been one of the most promising intellectual signs of recent years, and our country has developed a school of historical investigators hardly second to that of any other in industry, in scientific method, or in philosophical outlook. A few of the more important papers to be read at this Congress are the following: "The Inadequate Recognition of Diplomatists by Historians," by President James B. Angell; "Personal Explorations at Watling Island," by Herr Rudolph Cronau, of Leipzig; "Condition of Spain in the Sixteenth Century, "by Professor Bernard Moses; "Early Slavery in Illinois," by Mr. William Henry Smith; and "The Time-Element in American History," by Professor Moses Coit Tyler.
The work of the Congress of Philologists has been planned by a committee having as chairman Mr. W. M. Payne, with the cooperation of the American Philological Association, the Modern Language Association of America, and the American Dialect Society. These three societies will hold formal meetings, and their work will be supplemented by a number of papers obtained from outside sources, many of these relating to Oriental philology and archeology. About sixty papers will be included in the work of the philological section, and it will be necessary, during the greater part of the week, to hold two sessions at the same time. Among the features of these sessions may be mentioned the annual address of the President of the American Philological Association, Professor W. G. Hale, upon the subject of "Democracy and Education," discussed in the last number of The Dial; a paper by Mr. T. G. Pinches, of the British Museum, upon "Unpublished Manuscript Treasures"; a paper by Professor Richard Garbe, of the University of Königsberg, upon "The Connection between Indian and Greek Philosophy"; a paper by Dr. Richter, of Berlin, upon "The Archaeology of Cyprus"; a paper by Professor Emil Hausknecht, of Berlin, upon "Pedagogical Questions in Germany"; a paper by Dr. William C. Winslow, Vice-President of the Egypt Exploration Fund, upon "Old Testament History in the Light of Recent Discoveries"; and a paper by Professor F. A. March, upon "The Language of the Sciences and a Universal Language." The papers above named will be read by their authors. Other European philologists coming to America for the express purpose of attending this Congress are Professor Wilhelm Streitberg, of Freiburg (Switzerland), Professor E. A. Sonnenschein, of Birmingham, and Professor Hermann Osthoff, of Heidelberg. Among the important papers sent from Europe to the Congress are the following: "Assyrian Tablet Libraries," by Professor A. H. Sayce, of Oxford; "Canons of Etymological Investigation," by Professor Michel Breal, of the College de France; "Koptic Art and Its Relation to Early Christian Ornament," by Dr. Georg Ebers; and "The Great Altar at Dagr el Baharee (Thebes)," by Dr. Edouard Naville, a paper presenting the results of the author's latest excavations.
Extensive as is the programme of the Philological Congress, that of the Folk-Lore section is still more extensive. Mr. Fletcher S. Bassett, the enthusiastic chairman of the committee upon this subject, has obtained upward of seventy papers from specialists in all parts of the world, and has secured the attendance of some of the most distinguished among European folk-lorists, including M. Charles Ploix, President of the French Society; Mr. J. Abercrombie, Vice-President of the English Society; Herr Ulrich Jahn, of the Berlin Society; and Mr. Smigrodski, of Warsaw, who comes as the representative of several Continental societies. One feature of the Folk-Lore Congress will be of extraordinary interest. On Friday evening a concert will be given for the purpose of illustrating the popular songs of the various races of mankind. This concert is made possible by the presence at the Exposition of many types of humanity, and a score or more of nationalities will be represented in the programme. No single event of the week is likely to attract wider attention or excite more general interest.
The Congress of Authors, in which our readers probably take a more general interest than in any other, promises to be remarkably successful. The local committee of arrangements, having Mr. F. F. Browne as chairman, some time ago enlisted the services of an Eastern committee of the best-known American writers, with Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes as honorary chairman, and Professor George E. Woodberry as secretary. Largely owing to the efforts of this Committee of Coöperation, a very important programme has been drawn up, dealing with the commercial as well as the artistic aspects of authorship. The former of these aspects will be presented very forcibly by Mr. Walter Besant, who comes as the representative of the English Society of Authors, and who has awakened in his fellow-countrymen much interest in the Chicago Congress. Mr. Besant comes not only to speak in his own person, but also as the bearer of many important papers by English writers, among which may be mentioned "Some Considerations on Publishing," by Sir Frederick Pollock; "The Berne Conference," by Sir Henry Bergne; "Literature and the Press," by Mr. H. D. Traill; and The Future of the Drama," by Mr. Henry Arthur Jones. A fact of extraordinary interest in connection with this Congress is the expected presence of the greatest poet of modern Italy, Signor Carducci, although it is not yet known what part he will take in the proceedings. The subject of Copyright will have an important place in the work of the Congress, being discussed not only in the papers sent by English contributors, but also by Mr. A. L. Spofford, Librarian of Congress (who will preside), by Mr. R. R. Bowker of New York, and Mr. George E. Adams of Chicago. On the subject of Criticism, papers will be read by Messrs. Charles Dudley Warner (who will preside), John Burroughs, Moses Coit Tyler, H. W. Mabie, and others. On the subject of Fiction, there will be papers presented by Messrs. G. W. Cable (who will preside), Thomas Nelson Page, Joseph Kirkland, Mrs. Mary H. Catherwood, and Miss Alice French. Mr. R. W. Gilder, Mr. George E. Woodberry, and many other American writers of distinction are also expected to be present at the Congress, and take part in the work; but it is impossible at this date to give a more detailed account of the programme. Enough has been said, however, to make it clear that the gathering will be of great interest to all literary workers, and that important practical results may very probably remain as its outcome. The week of the Literature Congresses, taken as a whole, may be seen, even from the outline of facts presented in this article, to promise a degree of attractiveness to all sorts of intellectual interests that is rarely offered the public at any one time and place. After the Congresses are over, The Dial will again take occasion to summarize their features, and to point out what shall appear to have been significant in the results achieved by them.