English, Department of


Date of this Version



1956 Author(s)


Volume LXXI Number 1 3-13


I hope this microphone works. If you have to listen to me I hope you can hear me. Once before at a gathering of a learned society seeing an upright gadget before me, I talked with extreme care directly into for half an hour, moving neither to the right nor to the le find as I went down from the platform that is was a lamp.

For half a century I have belonged to the MLA. My name first appears in the Proceedings for 1906, printed in 1907. Apparently I joined in a historic year. Percy Waldron Long, who became Secretary of our Association in 1935 and its President in 1948, joined that same year, 1906, and our retiring Secretary, William Riley Parker, to whom the MLA owes its recent and long needed Foreign Language Program, was born in that year. Recently when looking over old volumes of PMLA I was surprised to note- I had utterly forgotten this- that in 1898 I was on the program of the Central Division, the earliest Division to splinter off for geographical convenience from the MLA proper. It was founded at a Chicago meeting in 1895 and was given up at Ann Arbor in 1923. Thereafter the general meetings were to alternate between the East and the "West," the latter usually meaning Chicago. By our day multiple divisions of our now gargantuan parent organization have arisen in the South and West, with the Rocky Mountain Division nearest the old Central. In 1898 Chancellor G.E. MacLean of the University of Nebraska, who studied at Berlin and Leipsic, Professors L. Fossler of the Department of German and A.H. Edgren, head of Romance Languages (founder of our graduate School, later Chancellor of the University of Goteborg, Sweden, later still member of the Nobel Prize Commission), brought the fourth session of the Central Division to Lincoln. I had been newly promoted from theme reader to a minor form of instructorship. When a paper from the Department of English Literature was wished for the program, my head, Dr. L.A. Sherman, asked me to prepare one. I was not a member of the MLA then, probably knew nothing about joining. I was not good company on the program. C. Alphonso Smith, then of the University of Louisiana, was the president of the Central Division. Sixteen papers were read. Among those taking part were three professors from the University of Chicago, F.I. Carpart, A.H. Tolman, P.S. Allen. Others appearing were Raymond Weeks of Missouri and W.H. Carruth of Kansas. The subject I selected to discuss was (of all things) "The Relation of the Finnsburg Fragment to the Finn episode of Beowulf," a moot question then. Professor Blackburn of Chicago commented that he thought the paper should be published. Inexperienced as I was, unacquainted with organs of publication and none too sure of my home-grown Anglo-Saxon I did nothing about this. Perhaps I should have tried to print my venture, for its conclusions were those ultimately prevailing.