In our sundown perambulations of late through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing “base,” a certain game of ball. We wish such sights were more common among us. In the practice of athletic and manly sports, the young men of nearly all our American cities are very deficient—perhaps more so than those of any other country that could be mentioned. Clerks are shut up from early morning till nine or ten o’clock at night—apprentices, after their days’ works, either go to bed or lounge about in places where they benefit neither body nor mind—and all classes seem to act as though there were no commendable objects of pursuit in the world except making money and tenaciously sticking to one’s trade or occupation. Now, as the fault is so generally of this kind, we can do little harm in hinting to people that, after all, there may be no necessity for such a drudge system among men. Let us enjoy life a little. Has God made this beautiful earth—the sun to shine—all the sweet influences of nature to operate and planted in man a wish for their delights—and all for nothing? Let us leave our close rooms and the dust and corruption of stagnant places, and taste some of the good things Providence has scattered around so liberally.
Today’s the first day of the the base and ball season. Play on, youths!
Amazing. See also Chicago on the Yangtze.
George Packer argues that “in vast, impoverished cities like Bombay, Cairo, Jakarta, Rio, or Lagos, the plot lines of the nineteenth century proliferate.” And thus, the readers of the developing world can more easily relate.
The concerns of that literature [late 19th-century novels]—the individual caught in an encompassing social web, the sensitive young mind trapped inside an indifferent world, the beguiling journey from countryside to metropolis, the dismal inventiveness with which people survive, the permanent gap between imagination and opportunity, the big families whose problems are lived out in the street, the tragic pregnancies, the ubiquity of corruption, the earnest efforts at self-education, the preciousness of books, the squalid factories and debtor’s prisons, the valuable garbage, the complex rules of patronage and extortion, the sudden turns of fortune, the sidewalk con men and legless beggars, the slum as theater of the grotesque: long after these things dropped out of Western literature, they became the stuff of ordinary life elsewhere, in places where modernity is arriving but hasn’t begun to solve the problems of people thrown together in the urban cauldron.
There is perhaps no psychic phenomenon which has been so unconditionally reserved to the metropolis as has the blasé attitude.
Lapham’s Quarterly looks like a worthy new periodical. Each volume covers a specific theme and the essays come from a wide range of historical texts. The current issue, “States of War,” draws on Patton, Ruskin, Lenin, Goebbels, bin Laden, Virgil, Tim O’Brien, Whitman, Vonnegut, Tolstoy…