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October 28, 2003

Sid Says: To Get Thoroughly Married Takes Time and Trouble

The first few reprints in what I've taken to calling the Gutenberg posts, after Project Gutenberg, were basically single essays, unrelated to each other or anything else aside from the fact that they possessed some historical value and to the best of my knowledge were not available anywhere else on the Net.

The next few entries in that category, 24 to be exact, are columns written by a man almost entirely lost to history, at least on the Internet--John M. Siddall, the editor of the American Magazine from 1915 to 1923 and the fellow whose mug graces the top of the post. I'll see what I can find out about him over the next couple of weeks from non-web sources, and attempt to rectify that situation somewhat.

While he was the American editor, Mr. Siddall began a column called "Sid Says", a title that should explain my attachment to the book to most of you. As for the the rest of you---tough. Hang around long enough and you'll figure it out.

Some of the columns under the "Sid Says" imprint were later collected into the book I'm now scanning them out of. Despite years of years of variously working in or patronizing used bookstores, I've never seen another.

Sellers at Alibris, one of whom calls the book "extremely rare" are offering three copies, none for less than $17.95. That's actually a pretty good price for an 86 year old hard cover, but you can still get it here for less, eventually.

Most of the essays Siddall wrote for the book fall into the "light humorous advice and observations" genre. They're literary potato chips, which is one reason why they fell out of the public conciousness in the years afterward, if indeed the essays ever penetrated the public conciousness to begin with. At this point I don't know enough about Mr. Siddall to tell for sure. Even if they did have some impact on the public mind in the years prior to World War One, few of the things written before that conflict would have survived the wrenching cultural changes in the years after it. Essays written in 1915 would have been as relevant to the minds of the 1920's as pre September 11th notions of the "End of history" are to us. They were a product of a more innocent time.

But, just because a thought from 1915 wasn't relevant to the world the Roaring Twenties doesn't mean that it remains irrelevant. Humans themselves have changed less than they would think in the last century, though our institutions have in some cases been drastically altered. Writings based on a knowledge of the human condtion should always have some relevance.

But here, decide for yourself.


To Get Thoroughly Married Takes Time and Trouble
By John M. Siddall, Circa 1917

SOME people don't understand marriage. They think—before tackling it anyway—that it is a natural institution. Their idea is that man by nature first loves and then marries.

Now the love part is natural, but the marriage part is an artificial scheme worked out by Society to prevent too frequent changes in the organization. Society finds a couple of youngsters who have a natural attraction for each other and it says to them: "Now, isn't this nice! You two think a lot of each other, don't you? And you don't want to lose each other, of course! Isn't it a shame you can't see each other except when Ma or Aunt Henrietta is home? I wonder if there isn't something we can do about it. Say, how would this little plan of mine do—marriage? All you have to do is to agree to it and sign a little document. Then you can live together. Yes? You like it? All right —just put your names down here. There now. That's fine! Just the thing!"

Then the young folks learn for themselves the difference between love and marriage. They learn that while love may turn out to be the short haul, marriage is the long haul. Love may get tired and want to quit before the piano needs tuning, but marriage runs right on through the World's Fair, Roosevelt's administration and the opening of the Panama canal. It becomes the one permanent job of life—a job hard to resign from and difficult to get fired from. Some people get so disgusted they can't stand it any longer and give up in a huff. But there stands Society, pointing the finger of shame at them and calling them welchers and quitters. Others work at the job indifferently, never win success, never quite fail, and go on from year to year afraid to give up, but dazed and mystified until the end of their days. Some glare at each other like meat axes. Others hate each other in their hearts, but for the sake of children or for other reasons live in a state of armed peace under a flag of truce. In cases of this kind both usually derive enormous self-satisfaction out of the fortitude and self-control which they display. Many work capably, unselfishly and energetically at the job and make a great success of it. To such as do the job well the rewards are greater than any to be obtained elsewhere in the world.

In business, if you make a great success, there may come a time when people begin to suggest that you ought to get out and give others a chance. Not so with marriage. If you win out in matrimony nobody wants you to quit. You are never superannuated or put on a pension. If you make a success everybody wants you to keep right on, stay in the neighborhood, and come around for the evening.

Marriage furnishes every man a chance to be a great man. In the married relation a young man can be as wise as Washington, as entertaining as Lincoln and as diplomatic as Bismarck. No married man ever has the right to stand up before the world and claim that he hasn't had opportunities.


Tomorrow, or next, depending on the events between now and then: Men Can't Be Geared Up--Unless they Are Cheered Up.

Posted by Bigwig at October 28, 2003 12:34 AM | TrackBack
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