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MAKER OF THE BOOK OF LIFE
• *^- OontiriiiCQ| people Come t*crc lor '^^ BPj^^HMy*^trf^isjPw6^jfi^ > S Visit to Abraham Cahan, Who Is the Father Con- J fessor. the Court of Last Resort of the Marvellous East Side. (Copyright, 1010, hy the Ntw York Herald Co. All rights reserre.U GARNET WARREN New York, Saturday.— NEWSPAPERS are scenarios of tlie dramas of life. They are the short records of tragedies and comedies which are true. What we know as large metropolitan dallies contain many of them. The newspapers of ill" east side con tain more. Why? "Because," said Mr. Abraham Cahan, the editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, "men are greater In numbers and emotions here. The crowded and chang ing conditions of east side life intensify effects; and the Jewish race is essentially dramatic." Mr. Cahan himself is about forty years old—ner vous, alert, quick moving, an obvious dynamo of energy. He is indeed a remarkable man. A novelist of distinction, a contributor to the highest class of American magazines and with a reportorlal experi ence upon American newspapers, he deliberately stepped out of that arena eight years ago to conduct a small newspaper on the east side because he con ceived the work to be done there was the more vital. I visited him recently, being curious as to the duties of an east side editor. I wondered wherein he.differed from his more decorative brethren of a great daily. "In many things," commenced Mr. Cahan, with a Slightly foreign accent, "but chiefly in his opportu nities for studying humanity direct. In the great daily the editor Is exactly—an editor. On the east side he is an editor, a rabbi, a lawgiver, a sympathiser and a friend. He must be all these, in fact, if he would be an editor; for the east side is, above all things, human." Mr. Caftan's speech is a duplicate of his appear ance—e/iger, quick moving, tense. "First tell me something about the organization of the typical east side newspaper," 1 said; "something about its contents and makeup now." "So far as news is concerned," said Mr. Cahan, laughing, "I'm afraid we're a rather negligible quan tity. Our special correspondent is mostly the office boy, who buyu the last edition from the news .stands. Ju fact, wi mostly 'lift' what news we print—ul though we always credit the newspaper wi steal from," he added, conscientiously. "You ■ c," be went on, "the most essential point of difference is necessitated by our readers. Thn Jewish east side- la more purely literary In his tasto than the average reader of the American daily. The Jew Is less Interested In things than In tut He likes discussions, debates, essays, p tJjinns, in fai i. which are not news. Sporting page* (In not Interest him. We, accordingly, carrj each day a couple of pages of what you would term 'special articles,' although they arc different kinds of special s from those which your readers like. We carry lots of translations of the most, famous for eign Uterarj work. We carry criticisms and crlti of our criticisms. In fact, the Jewish reutfei considers it his particular privilege to criticise orlg miii articles which we print, to criticise them both from the 11 Inl of view of the .story and the point of view of art. lie I d, H trained analytical Los Angeles Sunday Herald faculty which trie average American reader does not possess." "Then, generally, the Journalistic methods are quite different from those of —the others." I vaguely Indicated an uptown direction. "Oh. quite," said Mr. Cahan. smiling, and then, ru minating, "Where shall I begin?" The Human Element. "Well, the great point of difference is the human one," said Mr. Cahan. "We are brought into more intimate touch with people than you are. You merely touch the facts. We have to touch the facts and the hearts and the minds. We've got to make the east side people feel Umt they've not only a newspaper, but that the newspaper is kin to them, part of their lives and of themselves. In fact," he concluded more col loquially, "you've got to help your reader out."** "In such a manner as?" Mr. Cahan crossed his feet —feet covered with those elastic sided boots which are as much a part of the great east side as the strange, mystic characters writ ten upon the paper between us. "Well, the gallery of deserting husbands," he vol unteered. "You see the changed and changing condi tions of life here tend sometimes to lessen ujoral re sponsibility. Men desert their wives. The wives come to us with descriptions and photographs and we publish them. That's what we call the '(Gallery of Husbands.' We get letters from all over the country from people who recognize the men. "'That fellow's here at such and such an address,' one will say. Po wo get the husbands. They come then and state their case. They usually say they can't live with their wives. -That isn't necessary,' we say, 'but you mustjupporl them.' "Then wives come." he continued, "who wnnt hus bands discovered. There was one here yesterday. She had a pretty little girl with her, four years old. ■Please come back,' she wrote. 'Your little Becky's here crying for her papa. She sent you these kisses with her own hand.' "The child put little crosses at the bottom of the letter. Then the woman said: —'He's crazy for that child. When he sees that it'll break his heart!'" Mr. Cahan rose und looked at bis watch. "I'm afraid you're rather late," said he. He looked out of the door. "Between two and four <■;'.< h day." be continued, "people come here for ad vice, but I'm afraid they're all jrone today." There was one woman there, however, shawled. dark, typical of the east side. Mr. cahan approached her. The woman spoke eagerly, with little stiff ges ticulations. Mr. Cahan shook his head. She spoke again, gesticulated again. Mr. Caban shook his head more. Then he commenced to speak. He spoke fur five minutes, perhaps. She listened at lirst with out any indication of feeling; then, nodding energetic ally many times, arose and went. Mr. Cahan followed her to the stairs and called over to her. Shu an swerod, uoddlng energetically still. "That woman's husband," said he, "loft her two igo. She hud not heard from him. He took the !jisi«i which they hud saved. lie left without a word. Yesterday he wrote from Argentina, saying that he wanted her to conic to him. He said that Ik; loved her aud couldn't do without her. He didn't send any ' money, but she wants to x<>; says she loves him yet. 1 told her not to go." "Why?" I asked. "Well," he said, "business isn't very good for the stranger In Argentina, i>ut there's a large while slave trade down there. This man may want to traffic in her. 1 told her that 'If be loves you, 1 I said, 'he'll ho willing to come to you. Tell him you'll for give him if he cornea hero to yon, bul don't go to him. If he won't he doesn't love you.' That got her. So she* going to write its I suggested." The Family Secrets. He led the way back Into his little office, with the Kindle desk and the two chairs to relieve it of its bare ness. "Another feature which would be novel to die or dinary American reader Is (lie family discussions which we print, Tlie.se arc very popular on the east side. A man and his wife quarrel, for instance. The uiun wants to give up the store, the wife wants to re tain it. They can't agree. 'Well, we'll write to the Forward,' says one, 'and let It judge.' So the man writes a letter telling his reasons for wanting to give up the store and the wife writes her reasons for want ing to keep it. We publish both letters. And the re markable thing about such letters is that there are seldom assertions aud almost Invariably arguments. When the thing hus been thoroughly ventilated we de cide, and everybody invariably accepts the decision. The Jew regards his newspaper as Englishmen some times regard theirs. lie Invests it with some of the qualities of a pulpit utterance." "And some of the dramatic problems which you me called upon to solve as editor and humanitarian in general?" I asked. "There was one in particular a few days ago," said he, without hesitation. "The man was intelligent aud about forty-five. Ho was poorly dressed. He came In here to find out whether It was permissible for him to marry a deaf mute." "You have a wide scope for advice." I suggested. "The circumstances were these," continued Mr. <'ahaii. "The girl was the daughter of a Hebrew who had succeeded. He was worth about $60,000. Che daughter, being deaf and mute, found It Impos sible to marry. The father, wishing to settle her In life, offered $10,000 with her an a dowry. Here was the problem of the man who came to me: — " 'I'm a failure in life,' he said. 'I tried peddling and failed, i tried keeping a little store and failed. I tried as salesman and failed. I am very poor. 1 make only $5 a week. There is nothing before me. Now, here is this $10,000 offered if 1 will only marry this girl. I feel that I ought to take It. But I have a doubt In me; so I came to you.' "Well, we told him that he ought not to take it 'You would not love her,' we said. 'It would be wrong.' "He looked on* of the window which you see and pointed to the thousands of women sitting there In the park opposite. " 'Do you mean to say that all those women married for love? No; they married for homes. They made marriages of convenience, and yet they are good wives. The rich do it every day. I would oe a good hus band—l promise you that—once I married her. Is not a marriage justified by other things than love? A man is lonely, say. His nature is becoming warped by solitude. Is he not justified in marrying for associa tion? Whether you speak by mouth or fingers—-It Is the same. Intelligent association is what you need.' " 'It would be selling yourself.' I insisted. 'You are marrying her for her $10,000. You are selling yourself as much as the woman In the street. Failure or no failure, a man should not sell himself for money.' "Well, he went away and Bald that lie wouldn't do It," said Mr. Cahan. "An argument like that might seem ineffective if used with the ordinary man, but the Jew of the east side has a very deep feeling of re sponsibility to his Inmost ideals." The Book of Life. Mr. Oahan paused and excused himself for a mo ment, while he went to another silent, shawled figure which waited patiently on a chair at the end of the large room where men wrote at desks. He spoke with her for five minutes and returned. "But our most striking feature" he remarked in con tinuation, "if you like to call it that, is 'The Book of Life.' It is made of letters from the people, which tell their problems; speak their tragedies. We print three •alumni of these a day. We give the people advice if they want It. It has, perhaps, been due as much to this as anything that we have grown so. We get thirty of these letters a day, and select about three from them." "How did you induce them to understand wnai you wanted at first?" "Well, It was difficult," he answered. "I addressed a letter to the people in the first place. I said: —'You have life, (live it to us. There are great tragedies and comedies of life in your tenement houses. If I could tear the roofs from them I could see those tragedies and comedies; but I can't. You must help me to know.' "Well, nt first they couldn't understand. They sent In long letters with those artificial climaxes for which the magazines have such tender regard—exag gerated emotions, with no simplicity, no truth. So I tried again. I wrote a letter myself. It was an arti ficial ckk In the editorial hencoop to induce the. real kind. Then the stream commenced to pour in—let ters throbbing with pain; weighted with the primal burdena of nien and women—problems of living hu mnnity written In tears." Mr. Cahan turned to a file. "Here it is, you see." He Indicated the page, which to me was an unlntelll gibillty. "Here is one," he said, formulating the skeleton of it slowly. "He loves a girl. He is a cripple. He Is conscious of his deformity and is ashamed to speak to her. The others understand and laugh at him so that he Is ashamed to show himself in the street. He hides himself in his room. He says that he does not know what to do. He asks us." Mr. Cahan'i moving finger passed along. "Here Is a boarder who lived In a family and quar relled with the woman. That was a year ago. He left and started a rumor that she was unfaithful to her husband. Now his conscience bothers hltn. He is sorry. 'I hate myself,' he nays. 'I want you to publish this woman's name and print that I call my self a liar. This woman was a good woman. I was only angry and I lied.' " "In fact," continued Mr. Cahan, "It is remarkable what a part conscience plays here. There was a letter the other day from a man who bought some fake jewelry for v dollar or so and sold it to a woman for fifty. You know" —Mr. Cahan pantomimed the man who comes up in the street with the furtive air and the piece of jewelry concealed beneath his coat. "Well, the mnn went away and prospered. Now he's worth $10, --000 and his conscience bothers him. lie wants to find the woman so that he can give back the $50. He says that If she will name some little incident connected with the sale he will send it back. He feels bad." Mr. Cahan consulted the tiles again. "Here's a woman who had her watch stolen," he went on. "She knows the man who stole it. He is her friend. She likes and respects him. He is a good man and not a thief, she writes. He wan only tempted, for he Is very, very poor. She wants him to know that this is how she feels. She wants her watch back, but she does not want to hurt his feellngn. Bhc knows he has pawned It. 'Let him only leave the ticket in some place In which I can get it,' she says, 'and it will be all right. Then let him come to me Just as he always did. Let him not be ashamed. I will not remind him of it —not in a look or a word. It will be just as if I did not know. Just let him leave the ticket at the place.'" He turned over the files. "Here is another one," he said. "This is from a woman. She and her husband lived happily up to a year ago. Then he began to con ceive a suspicion that she was saving money secretly. He would search In her stockings. He is always on the hunt for money in unlikely places—places In which he thinks she might have hidden it. She cannot con vince him that she is not saving any. It Is a source of misery to both of them." He turned over pages, pages—each a chapter In his Book of Life. "Here is a girl in love with a man twenty years her 6euior. They were friends in the old country. They worked together. Her love Is based upon affection and esteem, but she doubts her heart. Her head tells her that there is too great a disparity in ages. Yet she is lonely and sure of hl« affection. He is so good to her—so tender. .What shall she do? "Here is a man who had to fly from Germany. He is successful here. Yet the yearning is strong in him to se« the places that he knew when he was young. He knows that he will be arrested and Imprisoned If he goes, yet he seems unable to stop himself. He asks us to help him." And so Mr. Cahan continued. The dramas of the lives of the poor came with the prodigality of a ma gician with a magic hat. There were far more than I could use. So I told him—this man who had called them forth—thanked him and went. And as 1 stood at the head of the stairs I stepped aside for three hhuwlcd women.