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The Americanization of Edward Bok The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years After
by Edward William Bok (1863-1930)
To the American woman I owe much, but to two women I owe more, My mother and my wife. And to them I dedicate this account of the boy to whom one gave birth and brought to manhood and the other blessed with all a home and family may mean.
This book was to have been written in 1914, when I foresaw some leisure to write it, for I then intended to retire from active editorship. But the war came, an entirely new set of duties commanded, and the project was laid aside.
Its title and the form, however, were then chosen. By the form I refer particularly to the use of the third person. I had always felt the most effective method of writing an autobiography, for the sake of a better perspective, was mentally to separate the writer from his subject by this device.
Moreover, this method came to me very naturally in dealing with the Edward Bok, editor and publicist, whom I have tried to describe in this book, because, in many respects, he has had and has been a personality apart from my private self. I have again and again found myself watching with intense amusement and interest the Edward Bok of this book at work. I have, in turn, applauded him and criticised him, as I do in this book. Not that I ever considered myself bigger or broader than this Edward Bok: simply that he was different. His tastes, his outlook, his manner of looking at things were totally at variance with my own. In fact, my chief difficulty during Edward Bok's directorship of The Ladies' Home Journal was to abstain from breaking through the editor and revealing my real self. Several times I did so, and each time I saw how different was the effect from that when the editorial Edward Bok had been allowed sway. Little by little I learned to subordinate myself and to let him have full rein.
But no relief of my life was so great to me personally as his decision to retire from his editorship. My family and friends were surprised and amused by my intense and obvious relief when he did so. Only to those closest to me could I explain the reason for the sense of absolute freedom and gratitude that I felt.
Since that time my feelings have been an interesting study to myself. There are no longer two personalities. The Edward Bok of whom I have written has passed out of my being as completely as if he had never been there, save for the records and files on my library shelves. It is easy, therefore, for me to write of him as a personality apart: in fact, I could not depict him from any other point of view. To write of him in the first person, as if he were myself, is impossible, for he is not.
The title suggests my principal reason for writing the book. Every life has some interest and significance; mine, perhaps, a special one. Here was a little Dutch boy unceremoniously set down in America unable to make himself understood or even to know what persons were saying; his education was extremely limited, practically negligible; and yet, by some curious decree of fate, he was destined to write, for a period of years, to the largest body of readers ever addressed by an American editor--the circulation of the magazine he edited running into figures previously unheard of in periodical literature. He made no pretense to style or even to composition: his grammar was faulty, as it was natural it should be, in a language not his own. His roots never went deep, for the intellectual soil had not been favorable to their growth;--yet, it must be confessed, he achieved.
But how all this came about, how such a boy, with every disadvantage to overcome, was able, apparently, to "make good"--this possesses an interest and for some, perhaps, a value which, after all, is the only reason for any book.
EDWARD W. BOK MERION, PENNSYLVANIA, 1920
An Explanation An Introduction of Two Persons I. The First Days in America II. The First Job: Fifty Cents a Week III. The Hunger for Self-Education IV. A Presidential Friend and a Boston Pilgrimage V. Going to the Theatre with Longfellow VI. Phillips Brooks's Books and Emerson's Mental Mist VII. A Plunge into Wall Street VIII. Starting a Newspaper Syndicate IX. Association with Henry Ward Beecher X. The First "Woman's Page," "Literary Leaves," and Entering Scribner's XI. The Chances for Success XII. Baptism Under Fire XIII. Publishing Incidents and Anecdotes XIV. Last Years in New York XV. Successful Editorship XVI. First Years as a Woman's Editor XVII. Eugene Field's Practical Jokes XVIII. Building Up a Magazine XIX. Personality Letters XX. Meeting a Reverse or Two XXI. A Signal Piece of Constructive Work XXII. An Adventure in Civic and Private Art XXIII. Theodore Roosevelt's Influence XXIV. Theodore Roosevelt's Anonymous Editorial Work XXV. The President and the Boy XXVI. The Literary Back-Stairs XXVII. Women's Clubs and Woman Suffrage XXVIII. Going Home with Kipling, and as a Lecturer XXIX. An Excursion into the Feminine Nature XXX. Cleaning Up the Patent-Medicine and Other Evils XXXI. Adventures in Civics XXXII. A Bewildered Bok XXXIII. How Millions of People Are Reached XXXIV. A War Magazine and War Activities XXXV. At the Battle-Fronts in the Great War XXXVI. The End of Thirty Years' Editorship XXXVII. The Third Period XXXVIII. Where America Fell Short with Me XXXIX. What I Owe to America Edward William Bok: Biographical Data The Expression of a Personal Pleasure
An Introduction of Two Persons
IN WHOSE LIVES ARE FOUND THE SOURCE AND MAINSPRING OF SOME OF THE EFFORTS OF THE AUTHOR OF THIS BOOK IN HIS LATER YEARS
Along an island in the North Sea, five miles from the Dutch Coast, stretches a dangerous ledge of rocks that has proved the graveyard of many a vessel sailing that turbulent sea. On this island once lived a group of men who, as each vessel was wrecked, looted the vessel and murdered those of the crew who reached shore. The government of the Netherlands decided to exterminate the island pirates, and for the job King William selected a young lawyer at The Hague.
"I want you to clean up that island," was the royal order. It was a formidable job for a young man of twenty-odd years. By royal proclamation he was made mayor of the island, and within a year, a court of law being established, the young attorney was appointed judge; and in that dual capacity he "cleaned up" the island.
The young man now decided to settle on the island, and began to look around for a home. It was a grim place, barren of tree or living green of any kind; it was as if a man had been exiled to Siberia. Still, argued the young mayor, an ugly place is ugly only because it is not beautiful. And beautiful he determined this island should be.
One day the young mayor-judge called together his council. "We must have trees," he said; "we can make this island a spot of beauty if we will!" But the practical seafaring men demurred; the little money they had was needed for matters far more urgent than trees.
"Very well," was the mayor's decision--and little they guessed what the words were destined to mean--"I will do it myself." And that year he planted one hundred trees, the first the island had ever seen.
"Too cold," said the islanders; "the severe north winds and storms will kill them all."
"Then I will plant more," said the unperturbed mayor. And for the fifty years that he lived on the island he did so. He planted trees each year; and, moreover, he had deeded to the island government land which he turned into public squares and parks, and where each spring he set out shrubs and plants.
Moistened by the salt mist the trees did not wither, but grew prodigiously. In all that expanse of turbulent sea--and only those who have seen the North Sea in a storm know how turbulent it can be--there was not a foot of ground on which the birds, storm-driven across the water-waste, could rest in their flight. Hundreds of dead birds often covered the surface of the sea. Then one day the trees had grown tall enough to look over the sea, and, spent and driven, the first birds came and rested in their leafy shelter. And others came and found protection, and gave their gratitude vent in song. Within a few years so many birds had discovered the trees in this new island home that they attracted the attention not only of the native islanders but also of the people on the shore five miles distant, and the island became famous as the home of the rarest and most beautiful birds. So grateful were the birds for their resting-place that they chose one end of the island as a special spot for the laying of their eggs and the raising of their young, and they fairly peopled it. It was not long before ornithologists from various parts of the world came to "Eggland," as the farthermost point of the island came to be known, to see the marvellous sight, not of thousands but of hundreds of thousands of bird-eggs.
A pair of storm-driven nightingales had now found the island and mated there; their wonderful notes thrilled even the souls of the natives; and as dusk fell upon the seabound strip of land the women and children would come to "the square" and listen to the evening notes of the birds of golden song. The two nightingales soon grew into a colony, and within a few years so rich was the island in its nightingales that over to the
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