Two Inexpensive Books About a Thrifty Man
There is a great difference between writing of the journey of a man to the South Seas, and setting down the travels of a commuter along the daily paths, in this case, of politics. That is why it is difficult to write a biography of Calvin Coolidge. But at the end of only a few months of his Administration, there are now two books on Mr. Coolidge.
One of these,* subtitled His First Biography, is by a Massachusetts politician who served in the Massachusetts legislature with the now President. The other†, called A Contemporary Estimate, is by the political columnist of the Boston Herald. Both are in the nature of biographies. Both suffer from the fact that Mr. Coolidge has never been at pains to provide good material for a Boswell or a Macaulay, and hardly less from the lack of a true Boswell or Macaulay.
Recognizing the scantiness of material, Mr. Washburn sought to clothe his skeleton facts both in the flesh of anecdote and in the drapery of buncombe. He has not forgotten the tricks of his political trade, the "lofty" theme, the "lively" wit. A few examples:
"There stood by the child's cradle one great and powerful, Fate. . . . Her protecting arm she raised above him. She took him by the hand and ever led him on. . . . She commissioned into the service a good and a great merchant of Boston. . . . She commanded striking policemen to open a path before him. A great Police Commissioner gave wings to his feet. . . . She set him in the seats of the mighty. Even Death rode on before him and cleared the way."
"He knows the plain people. He thus conserves their rights. He is one of them. It has been said that God loves the plain people most because He made so many of them."
"On one occasion, [as a boy] for some undetermined reason, having been found at a village dance ... his grandmother, who was one of the old school, whatever that may mean, rewarded his virtue with one dollar."
"While many of the boys of today are feverishly putting on the golf green, Cal was happy in pursuing to its lair the sportive potato. . . . He early became an adept in divorcing the lowing herd which winds slowly o'er the lea from the raw material which makes for butter and cheese."
"The courtship of Coolidge was unique. . . . He laid much confidence on the power of propinquity, sitting and silence. . . . When the hour ripened for action, he gently spread a kerchief upon the carpeted floor on Maple Street. . . . He confided to her alone that Fate had pointed to the Presidency for him. . . . She replied in a monosyllable: 'Yes.' . . . Asked once by a representative of the press for the romance of her marriage, Grace Goodhue Coolidge replied: 'Have you ever seen my husband?' . . . If Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge has ever deplored her decision, she has had too much loyalty to the President to betray it."
"A wise old owl lived in an oak;
The more he saw, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard;
Why can't we be like that old bird?"
(Motto over the Coolidge fireplace in Northampton.)
"No lines are more significant in explaining Calvin Coolidge than these which follow: