A Tale of a Tub
[Chapter 19 from The Natural History of
Nonsense, by Bergen Evans, published by Alfred A. Knopf,
Inc., pp. 258-75. Copyright 1946 by Bergen Evans.]
In the New York Evening Mail
for December 28, 1917, Mr. H. L. Mencken diverted himself by greeting
what he called "A Neglected Anniversary." On that day seventy-five
years before, he averred, one Adam Thompson, an adventurous cotton
broker in Cincinnati, had created quite a splash by lowering his naked
form into the first bathtub installed in America. His act had
precipitated a storm of protest. Bathing was universally condemned as
an affectation and a menace to health and morals. Medical societies
expressed their disapprobation, state legislatures imposed prohibitive
taxes to prevent the custom from spreading, and the city of
Boston--then as now zealous to protect its citizens from harmful
contacts--passed a special ordinance forbidding it. There was strong
public resentment when President Fillmore had a tub installed in the
White House, but ultimately his example carried the day and bathing
came to be tolerated if not practiced by our grandfathers.
This story, in its author's words, "of spoofing all compact," was "a
tissue of heavy absurdities, all of them deliberate and most of them
obvious," but it was seized upon with avidity by all sorts of people
and related as one of the most sacred facts of our history. Quacks used
it as evidence of the stupidity of doctors. Doctors used it as proof of
medical progress. Bathtub manufacturers used it as proof of their
foresight, and assorted reformers used it as proof of the public's lack
of it. Editors used it as proof of their own knowledge. It appeared as
a contribution to public welfare in thick government bulletins. The
standard reference works incorporated it. It was solemnly repeated by
master thinkers, including the president of the American Geographical
Society and the Commissioner of Health for the City of New York. Dr.
Hans Zinsser communicated it to his readers as one of the esoteric
facts of medical annals, and Alexander Woollcott shared it with the
radio public as one of those quaint bits of lore with which his
whimsical mind was so richly stored.1
By 1926 Mencken, "having undergone a spiritual rebirth and put off
sin," felt that the joke had gone far enough. He confessed publicly
that his story had been a hoax and pointed out what he felt should have
warned the critical reader against accepting it as a fact. His
confession was printed in thirty newspapers "with a combined
circulation, according to their sworn claim, of more than 250,000,000,"
and the gullibility of the public (which had consisted largely in
believing these same papers) received many an editorial rebuke.
But the original yarn would not die. Within a month of its exposure
it was being reprinted in the very papers that had carried the
confession. Mencken printed a second confession, but that too was swept
aside. His bathtub had become a juggernaut that was not to be stopped
by so slight an impediment as the truth. Congressmen had vouched for
it, preachers had woven it into their homilies, and professors had
rewritten their textbooks to include it. What chance had the mere
disavowal of one whom they regarded as a notorious buffoon against the
affirmations of such ponderous respectability?2
And so the tale of his tub goes on. Not a week passes but it is
repeated in the press or from the pulpit. Mencken has tried once or
twice again to undo the damage, but he has been called a meddler and a
liar for his pains and has withdrawn from the unequal struggle. The
story has taken its place in our national mythology beside Washington's
cherry tree and Lincoln's conversion. It is now above argument and
beyond evidence. Five minutes in any library would be enough to refute
it, but it has ceased to be a question of fact and has become an
article of faith.
Certain reasons for this are fairly obvious. It is one of those
stories--like the theory that Bacon wrote Shakespeare--that make their
narrators seem very learned without putting them to the trouble of
having to acquire knowledge. It has earned many an easy dollar for sage
and commentator and has added enough "fresh material" to textbooks to
justify forcing a new edition on the students.
But such temporary individual advantages would not fully account for
its vitality. Better canards have been shorter lived. The bathtub story
plainly touches something deep in our national psyche, and if we could
know why it has spread so vigorously we might know a great deal more
about vulgar errors.
One element in its success is that it supports the great idea of
progress and particularly the American conviction that progress is to
be measured by the increase of material conveniences and creature
comforts, an idea that is very important in our national life. An
insistent and expensive advertising campaign has connected it with the
calendar; the average American is apparently convinced that all
mechanical contrivances automatically improve every three hundred and
sixty-five days, and under the spell of this delusion he has bought
hundreds of millions of cars and radios and refrigerators that he did
not need, to the profit of those who fostered the delusion.
The idea of progress is one of our great national investments. The
amount of money spent in the schools, in the newspapers, and on the
radio to protect it exceeds computation. It is part and parcel of
"boosting," of that mass optimism which has made us, for good and evil,
what we are today. Nothing is more treasonable to the basic American
spirit than to doubt that we have improved and are improving--every day
and in every way.
And, for reasons that the social historian can perhaps explain, the
bathtub has become a special symbol not only of our material progress
but of our spiritual progress as well. For we set great store by things
of the spirit. Nothing is more warmly rejoiced in than our superiority
to the grimy Europeans in the matter of bathtubs. Cleanliness is far
ahead of godliness. State that a man mistreats his bathtub and--as far
as most well-to-do Americans are concerned--you have put him beyond the
pale of consideration. No argument against public housing has been used
more consistently and, one suspects, more effectively than the
assertion that even if you give bathtubs to the poor they will only
dump coal in them. To point out that most housing projects are
centrally heated and supplied with gas and electricity, so that their
occupants have no need of coal, is to earn the reproach of being
frivolous. It is absolutely "known" that all occupants of housing
projects put coal in their bathtubs. And their so doing indicates such
depravity that to build houses for them is practically contributing to
moral delinquency. The poor have been weighed in the bathtub and found
It begins to be a little clearer why Mencken's hoax has flourished
so. It flatters provincial smugness. It implies that comfortable folk
did not come by their comforts without a struggle. They deserve what
they have. After all, they pioneered with running hot water. They are
heroes, with their thick mats and heavy towels. Their scented soap was
gained only through foresight and endurance.
A similar myth, which has had a smaller circulation but has done
fairly well promises to do better, is that the umbrella is a recent
innovation and that early users had to brave public scorn before they
could persuade their obtuse fellows to follow their example. One of our
largest life insurance companies informs the public in an advertisement
that when umbrellas were first introduced they were attacked as a
"rediculos effemenacy," and were generally accepted "only when
physicians urged their use 'to keep off vertigoes, sore eyes and
fevers.' " The Encyclopædia
Britannica, which seems to have taken its information from The Dictionary of National Biography,
says that Jonas Hanway "is said to have been the first Londoner
habitually to carry an umbrella, and he lived to triumph over all the
hackney coachmen who tried to hoot and hustle him down."
Here, again, we have the idea of progress, and here again the
glorification of Milquetoast, a suggestion--not inappropriate for a
life insurance company--that there is something brave in seeking your
own comfort. Policy holders must all have moments of wondering whether
they are not perhaps being a little timid about life, and it must be a
great satisfaction to learn that they are in a heroic tradition. The
only thing wrong with the analogy, however, is that it is based on
error. Umbrellas had been in general use for a hundred and fifty years
before the scene depicted in the advertisement, long before Jonas
Hanway was born, and for anything we know those who carried them were
regarded then as they are now--with envy when it was raining and
contempt when it was not.3
Mere mistakes in point of fact, however, do not in themselves make
vulgar errors. They are often the starting point, but the fallacy is
always the product of certain processes in popular thinking: of arguing
from negatives and analogies, of making false generalizations, of
worshipping coincidence, of taking rhetoric for fact, of never
questioning or even perceiving the underlying conceptions that make for
prejudice, and, above all, of a romantic delight in the wonderful for
its own sake. And once made, the error, as has been suggested, is
likely to owe its vitality to intellectual currents and social forces
with which, superficially regarded, it has no seeming connection.
Popular logic is Erewhonian logic. Whereas the trained mind accords
belief to plausible evidence only and grants a possibility solely on
the basis of a sound inference from established facts, the untrained
mind insists that a proposition must be true if it cannot be disproved. "You can't prove it isn't so!" is as good as Q.E.D. in
folk logic--as though it were necessary to submit a piece of the moon
to chemical analysis before you could be sure that it was not made of
Analogical argument--the inferring of a further degree of
resemblance from an observed degree--is one of the greatest pitfalls of
popular thinking. In medicine it formerly led to what was known as the
doctrine of signatures, by which walnuts were prescribed for brain
troubles because walnut meats look something like miniature brains,
foxes' lungs were prescribed for asthma because foxes were thought to
have unusual respiratory powers, and bear's grease was rubbed on the
head for baldness because bears have hairy coats. Hundreds of futile
remedies were based on such false analogies, and they have not all been
cleared off druggists' shelves yet, though the survivors are no doubt
"scientifically" prepared and packaged.
Nor was this form of reasoning confined to medicine. It invaded
every department of life. It led our grandfathers to wear red flannel
underwear because heat is associated with the color of fire. It endowed
various gems with properties suggested by their colors, and it has led
modem telepathists to insist that the radio justifies their
Many popular fallacies are rooted in verbal confusions. How few
people who dismiss unwelcome evidence by saying that "the exception
proves the rule" have any idea of what the saying actually means, and
how fewer still have any idea of what they mean by using it! So
enmeshed is error in words that a whole new science, semantics, has
sprung up which offers, with little danger of being challenged, to
produce the millennium just as soon as people know for sure what they
are talking about. But since much of the vagueness and confusion is in
the words themselves, since all words are in a sense abstractions, the
semanticists will probably not get anywhere until (as Swift suggested
two hundred years ago) they abandon language altogether and carry about
with them the objects to which they wish to allude. This solution of
the problems of logic, however, raises even greater problems in
logistics and so may fail for lack of a proper trial.
The common mind is intensely literal. The public loves rhetoric, yet
it is continually taking rhetoric for fact, often with far-reaching and
unpleasant consequences. It would be impossible to estimate, for
example, how many lives have been blighted and how much human misery
has been augmented by the concept of "blood" as a transmitter of
heredity. Yet the term is merely a trope. It has no reality whatever.
The power of this tendency to create myths has recently been
demonstrated in the famous assurance that "there are no atheists in
foxholes." As nearly as the origin of the formula can be traced, it was
first uttered by Lieutenant-Colonel Warren J. Clear in a story of
Bataan's final weeks, delivered during the "Army Hour" program over the
NBC Red Network in 1942. Colonel Clear attributed the immortal
observation to an unnamed sergeant who had shared a foxhole with him
during a Japanese bombing raid. No pretense was made that there had
been an official catechism of every man or that the sergeant was a
trained theologian. It was simply meant to be an emphatic way of saying
that all men in the moment of peril seek the support of religion.
Whether they do or not is as much a question as whether it is
creditable to religion to claim that they do, but neither question was
widely agitated. As far as the populace was concerned the rhetorical
flourish was a military fact, and as far as the papers were concerned
it was always news, however frequently repeated. At first it was only
the foxholes of Bataan that were distinguished for their conversional
powers, but as the war spread the mana
was found in any sheltering declivity, and the trenches of Port
Moresby and Guadalcanal delivered their quota of converts. There was no
reason, of course, why Divine favor should be confined to the infantry,
and other branches of the services were soon touched with similar
grace. By December 1943, according to an article in the Reader's Digest, atheists had been
pretty well cleaned out of cockpits (where God, it will be remembered,
had been retained in the inferior position of co-pilot); and
Rickenbacker's celestial seagull drove them even from rubber rafts. A
few skeptics may have gone on lurking in the glory holes of the
Merchant Marine, but their enlightenment merely awaited the first
There were, of course, dissenting voices. Poon Lim, a Chinese
steward, who existed for one hundred and thirty-three days alone on a
raft in the South Atlantic, stated, on being rescued, that nothing in
the experience had led him to believe in a merciful Providence, even
though he too had had a seagull. But then he was a heathen to begin
The American Association for the Advancement of Atheism felt that
the phrase was a reflection on the patriotism of their members and did
their best to refute it. They managed to find at least one sturdy
doubter in the army who had had his dog tag stamped "Atheist"; but
unfortunately, though he had once been run over by a tank, he had never
been in a foxhole, and hence could not technically qualify. A better
candidate, whom the A.A.A.A. overlooked, was E. J. Kahn, Jr., who in
one of his articles in the New Yorker confessed that he was not a
religious man and in another that he had dived into a latrine trench
when Jap planes were overhead. Of course an unbeliever in a latrine is
not exactly an atheist in a foxhole, but the faithful would probably
have been willing to accept it as a reasonable facsimile.5
Not that it would have done the Association any good to have found a
whole regiment of atheists encamped in a thousand foxholes--as they
probably could, had they gone to our Russian allies for assistance. The
phrase was intended to confirm prejudice, not to describe combat
conditions, and prejudice is not open to conviction.
On the other hand, fortunately, it is not very convincing either.
Prejudices are never shaken by counterprejudices because we never
perceive our prejudices to be such. We take them either for reasoned
conclusions or for revealed truths, and the most serious prejudices of
all, those that affect our thinking most, are generally below the level
of consciousness. We think within the framework of concepts of which we
are often unaware. Our most earnest thoughts are sometimes shaped by
our absurdest delusions. We see what we want to see, and observation
conforms to hypothesis. Thus it has been suggested that Darwin's theory
of sexual selection was owing not to his observations as a naturalist
but to his convictions as a gentleman that certain courtesies were due
a lady, though five minutes spent in watching chickens ought to have
dispelled the assumption that Nature shared his code.
The manner in which our thinking is shaped by our unconscious
attitudes and assumptions is strikingly illustrated by our reference to
China and Japan as "the East," when in America they would be more
properly described as "the West." Of course they are east if you go far
enough, but by that logic Chicago is east of New York. The real
explanation is that we are Europe-minded--or more specifically,
England-minded. And still more striking is it that Japan, at least,
also conceives of herself as the East. She too is Europe-minded, and
probably just as unconsciously so. Yet her flag shows her point of
view. The menace of the Rising Sun was lost on our complacent fathers,
who failed to observe its implication--namely that Japan conceived of
herself as a new power, of unparalleled brilliance and glory, rising on the European horizon.
The popular mind, irrational and prejudiced, makes some effort to
examine evidence, but it has very little knowledge of the true nature
of what it is looking for or of the forces at work to frustrate and
confuse it in its search. It generalizes from exceptions, and from a
mass of experience selects only those elements that confirm its
preconceptions--without the faintest awareness of what it is doing.
Most of what is called thinking--even up to and including much of what
goes on in the brains of college faculties--is actually a seeking for
confirmation of previous convictions. The true scientific spirit that
leads men to be particularly suspicious of all beliefs they hold dear
is utterly incomprehensible to most people. To the naïve,
often seems malicious perversity: only "some secret enemy in the inward
degenerate nature of man," said Topsell, could lead anyone to doubt the
existence of the unicorn.
And in the eternal search for verification of supernaturalism which
engrosses so much of popular "philosophy," nothing passes for more
cogent evidence than coincidence. The marveling over unexpected
juxtapositions is at once the mark and the diversion of banal minds,
and most of them do not require very remarkable happenings to
constitute coincidences. Those who for lack of knowledge or imagination
expect nothing out of the ordinary are always encountering the
unexpected. One of the commonest of "coincidences," as Professor
Jastrow has pointed out, is the crossing of letters in the mail. It
happens a thousand times a day, yet thousands of men and women whip
themselves into amazement every time it happens. As far as they are
concerned, it is complete and final proof of the supernatural, whether
it be telepathy or Divine guidance or merely soul calling to soul.
There it is, sealed, stamped, and delivered. Yet of all human
happenings, what is more likely than that lovers or relatives should
simultaneously decide to write to each other?
The wonder of most coincidence is subjective. As far as sheer
unlikelihood goes, an unsolicited advertisement in the mail is a
greater marvel than a letter from someone to whom we have just written.
But since we have no emotional interest in the advertisement we rarely
meditate upon the "miracle" of its arrival, and, even where some
occurrence is unusual enough to justify comment, a desire to exalt
ourselves or a complete preoccupation with our own affairs usually
prevents us from evaluating its true nature. That the working of the
law of averages has no effect whatever on individual instances is a
fact that even trained observers sometimes seem reluctant to face. The
chances against almost anything's happening just the way it did are
almost infinite, and it is very easy to see marvels if you are looking
for them. It has been estimated, for example, that a bridge hand
consisting of all the spades in the pack can be expected, according to
the law of averages, only once in approximately eight hundred billion
deals. Apprised of this, any man dealt such a hand could very easily
permit himself to be awestruck, and it would be impossible to convince
him that there was nothing remarkable about the and except that it
happened to be a desirable one--since exactly the same odds prevail for
any hand whatever.6
Attempts to point this out, however, would probably be met with
resentment, since they would detract from the importance of the
individual concerned. He would prefer, most likely, to go on believing
that the normal order of things had been suspended for his advantage.
For the popular love of the marvelous is, at bottom, egotism. That is
why it is so easy to encourage it, as the popular press does, inflating
every commonplace into a wonder or manufacturing marvels outright. Half
the "miracles" of modern times are pure journalistic fabrications. The
success they can achieve was shown in November 1929, when the Boston Globe sent a million and a quarter
people stampeding into the cemetery at Malden, Massachusetts, by
playing up sensational "cures" that were said to have taken place
there. A hysterical woman who had been unable to walk for a year,
although her hospital record showed no organic trouble, leaped with joy
under the healing influence of the flashbulbs. A blind boy was said to
have regained his sight; his own pathetic insistence that he was no
better was suppressed, despite his father's indignant efforts to get
the papers to retract the story of his "cure." Crippled children were
stripped of their braces and photographed quickly before they sprawled,
crying, in the mud. Meanwhile extras sold like hot cakes and the Mayor
knelt in reverence for the rotogravure.7
Deliberate misrepresentations and creations of the incidents they
"report" are a staple activity of all but half a dozen papers and news
magazines in the country. Consider the unwearied zeal with which they
have labored to sustain "the curse of Tut-ankh-amen." No one in any
remote way connected with the discovery or opening of the tomb can die,
at any age whatever, but his death is seen as the working of the
"curse." Edgar Wallace, writing in McCall's
Magazine, said that the very day the tomb was opened a cobra ate
the chief explorer's canary, and, from that day to this, Egyptian
vengeance has stalked the entire party. In the papers, that is. As a
matter of prosaic record, the members of the expedition seem to have
enjoyed remarkable health and to have been blessed with longevity far
beyond actuarial expectancy.
The retelling of the myth, of course, has earned many a penny and
added to the success of many a raconteur. People dearly love the old
lies, while truth, as Milton said, "never comes into the world but like
a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her birth."
Irrationality must come close to being the largest single vested
interest in the world. It has a dozen service stations in every town.
There are twenty-five thousand practicing astrologers in America who
disseminate their lore through a hundred daily columns, fifteen
monthly, and two annual publications--and this does not include the
half-dozen "confidential" news letters that keep business executives so
consistently misinformed about the future. It is even said that there
is a movement on foot to have a Federal astrologer appointed as an
officer of the government, and, considering the official recognition
given to other forms of superstition, the movement may succeed.8
But astrologers and crystal gazers are not alone. More men than
Bertrand Russell's "bishops and bookies" live off, the irrational hopes
of mankind. Journalists, stockbrokers, realtors, advertisers, lawyers,
professors, promoters, doctors, druggists, and politicians also derive
a part of their income from the same source. In fact, everyone in our
society not directly engaged in the production and distribution of
necessities, transportation, artistic creation, elementary teaching, or
the maintenance of public order, to some extent, and more or less
consciously, preys upon ignorance and delusion.
A great deal of this exploitation is open and shameless. The supply
house, for example, that sold nearly half a million steel-jacketed
Testaments and prayer books, at exorbitant prices, to the pathetic and
gullible relatives, of service men, with the vague assurance that they
were "capable of deflecting bullets," was, as the Federal Trade
Commission implied, obtaining money under false pretenses. The metal
shields, for all the "God Bless You" stamped on them and the sacred
literature under them, would, if struck by a bullet, produce almost
certainly fatal wounds.
There is a lot of this sort of thing going on, and those who
practice it in a small way frequently end up in jail. But those who
practice it in a big way frequently end up in Who's Who and The Social Register. They are our
prophets and publicists. They do not actually do the stealing; they
supply the sanctions for those who do, and they function chiefly by
sonorously repeating clichés. They do not have to prove that
this or that proposed reform is wrong; all they have to do is to say
that "soft living weakens a nation." They do not labor to defend racial
discrimination; they support "innate differences."
One of their most effective catchwords of late has been "science."
"Scientists say," or "Scientists agree," or "Science has proved" is a
formula of incantation that is thought to place any statement that
follows it above critical examination. They love to recall the doubt
and scorn that were heaped on scientists in an earlier day, not as a
rebuke to those particular doubters--they are still doing a brisk
business at the old stands--but as a rebuke to doubt itself.
For the thing they must defend is not this or that belief, but the
spirit of credulity. To this end they propagate a vague sort of
supernaturalism. They have no profound religious beliefs. Most of them,
indeed, would deride their own metaphysical professions if they were
presented to them in any but the accustomed phrases; but they are
convinced that such beliefs are "good for the people," and they repel
any specific questioning of any specific belief as "bad taste." They
seem to assume that there is some abstraction called "religion" which
is apart from any particular religious belief, yet which is of so
sacred a nature that it throws a taboo of silence over all religions.
Religion, they say, is a subject that "one doesn't discuss"--though
truly religious people do not agree with them.
No error is harmless. "Men rest not in false apprehensions without
absurd and inconsequent deductions." Some of the deductions seem
inconsequential as well as inconsequent, but in their larger aspects
they are not. It cannot do much harm to believe that hair turns white
over night, or that birds live a happy family life, or that orientals
have slanting eyes; but it can do a great deal of harm to be ignorant
of physiology or zoology or anthropology, and the harm that may result
from forming an opinion without evidence, or from distorting evidence
to support an opinion, is incalculable.
Obscurantism and tyranny go together as naturally as skepticism and
democracy. It is very convenient for anyone who profits by the docility
of the masses to have them believe that they are not the masters of
their fate and that the evils they must endure are beyond human
control. It was not surprising to find the author of Man the Unknown collaborating with
the Nazis. The mist of mysticism has always provided good cover for
those who do not want their actions too closely looked into.
From the time of the Peasants' Rebellion on, all true democratic
movements have been branded as anti-religious. In part this has been an
effort to discredit them, and in part it has been a perception that
democracy is essentially antiauthoritarian--that it not only demands
the right but imposes the responsibility of thinking for ourselves. And
belief is the antithesis to thinking. A refusal to come to an
unjustified conclusion is an element of an honest man's religion. To
him the call to blind faith is really a call to barbarism and slavery.
In being asked to believe without evidence, he is being asked to
abdicate his integrity. Freedom of speech and freedom of action are
meaningless without freedom to think. And there is no freedom of
thought without doubt. The civilized man has a moral obligation to be
skeptical, to demand the credentials of all statements that claim to be
facts. An honorable man will not be bullied by a hypothesis. For in the
last analysis all tyranny rests on fraud, on getting someone to accept
false assumptions, and any man who for one moment abandons or suspends
the questioning spirit has for that moment betrayed humanity.
Browse all articles.
H. L. Mencken: "Hymn to the Truth,"
Prejudices. Sixth Series
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; 1927), pp. 194-201. See also
Vilhjalmur Stefansson: Adventures
in Error (New York: Robert M. McBride & Company; 1936), Chapter 8;
and Curtis D. MacDougall: Hoaxes
(New York: The Macmillan Company; 1941), pp. 302-09.
See Mencken's article above.
For the National Life Insurance Company's
advertisement, see Life,
January 29, 1945, p. 2.
The Encyclopædia Britannica,
14th ed., 1943 revision, vol. 11, p. 166; The Dictionary of National Biography,
vol. VIII, p. 1197.
"The tuck'd-up semstress walks with hasty strides
While streams run down her oil'd umbrella's sides."
--Jonathan Swift, Description of a City Shower (1710)
And see "umbrella" in The Oxford English Dictionary for references as
early as 1610.
It will be remembered that an umbrella was of the first convenience of
civilization that Robinson Crusoe made for himself.
See the Reader's
Digest, December 1943, pp. 26-28.
Spectacular conversions in times of stress are claimed not only for the
common man but for the hero. Thus Lincoln was said to have been
converted on the battlefield of Gettysburg, though the widow of Henry
Ward Beecher insisted that Brooklyn was the locale of, and the battle
of Bull Run the motivation for, this alleged illumination. See Lloyd
Lewis: Myths after Lincoln
(New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company;
1940), pp. 382-85.
For Poon Lim, see the
New York Times, May 25, 1943, p. 12. For a similar stalwart,
James Whyte, see the Times, London,
February 1, 1943, p. 3 and February 2, 1943, p. 3.
For the soldier who had his identification disk stamped "Atheist," see
The Truth Seeker, January 1945, p. 13.
For E. J. Kahn's disavowal of religious fervor, see the
New Yorker, May 8, 1943, p. 53.
For his leaping into the latrine, see the same publication, February 20, 1943,
p. 34. Note that the disavowal of faith postdates the latrine.
See E. C. Kellogg: "New Evidence (?) for
Scientific Monthly, vol. 45, 1937, pp. 331-41.
"Dr. Beattie observe, as something remarkable which had happened to
him, that he had chanced to see both No. 1, and No. 1000, of the
hackney-coaches, the first and the last; 'Why Sir, (said Johnson,) there
is an equal chance for one's seeing those two numbers as any other two.'"
--Boswell's Johnson (Oxford:
The Clarendon Press [Powell's revision of the Hill ed.], 1934), vol. IV, p. 330.
See Gardner Jackson: "'Miracles' at Malden," the
Nation, December 4, 1929, pp. 662-64.
And see Time, November 25, 1929, p.
18; the New Republic, December 4,
1929, pp. 38-40; the Literary Digest,
December 7, 1929, pp. 22-23; the Atlantic
Monthly, April 1930, pp. 537-45. H. L. Mencken speaks of the "vast
and militant ignorance, the widespread and fathomless prejudice against
intelligence, that makes American journalism so pathetically feeble and
vulgar, and so generally disreputable."--"Journalism in America," Prejudices.
Sixth Series (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; 1927), p. 15.
For the clairvoyant nature of confidential business
news letters, see Dixon Wecter: "How Much News in a News Letter?" the
Atlantic Monthly, March 1945,
pp. 43-49. For the demand for a Federal astrologer, see the
New Yorker, May 12, 1945, p. 18.