Through the Eye of the Needle

William Dean Howells
Through the Eye of the Needle

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Title: Through the Eye of the Needle A Romance
Author: W. D. Howells
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A Romance

Aristides Homos, an Emissary of the Altrurian Commonwealth, visited
the United States during the summer of 1893 and the fall and winter
following. For some weeks or months he was the guest of a
well-known man of letters at a hotel in one of our mountain resorts; in
the early autumn he spent several days at the great Columbian
Exhibition in Chicago; and later he came to New York, where he
remained until he sailed, rather suddenly, for Altruria, taking the
circuitous route by which he came. He seems to have written pretty
constantly throughout his sojourn with us to an intimate friend in his
own country, giving freely his impressions of our civilization. His
letters from New York appear to have been especially full, and, in
offering the present synopsis of these to the American reader, it will not
be impertinent to note certain peculiarities of the Altrurian attitude
which the temperament of the writer has somewhat modified. He is
entangled in his social sophistries regarding all the competitive
civilizations; he cannot apparently do full justice to the superior
heroism of charity and self-sacrifice as practised in countries where
people live upon each other as the Americans do, instead of for each
other as the Altrurians do; but he has some glimmerings of the beauty

of our living, and he has undoubtedly the wish to be fair to our ideals.
He is unable to value our devotion to the spirit of Christianity amid the
practices which seem to deny it; but he evidently wishes to recognize
the possibility of such a thing. He at least accords us the virtues of our
defects, and, among the many visitors who have censured us, he has not
seen us with his censures prepared to fit the instances; in fact, the very
reverse has been his method.
Many of the instances which he fits with his censures are such as he
could no longer note, if he came among us again. That habit of
celebrating the munificence of the charitable rich, on which he spends
his sarcasm, has fallen from us through the mere superabundance of
occasion. Our rich people give so continuously for all manner of good
objects that it would be impossible for our press, however vigilant, to
note the successive benefactions, and millions are now daily bestowed
upon needy educational institutions, of which no mention whatever is
made in the newspapers. If a millionaire is now and then surprised in a
good action by a reporter of uncommon diligence, he is able by an
appeal to their common humanity to prevail with the witness to spare
him the revolting publicity which it must be confessed would once
have followed his discovery; the right hand which is full to overflowing
is now as skilled as the empty right hand in keeping the left hand
ignorant of its doings. This has happened through the general decay of
snobbishness among us, perhaps. It is certain that there is no longer the
passion for a knowledge of the rich, and the smart, which made us
ridiculous to Mr. Homos. Ten or twelve years ago, our newspapers
abounded in intelligence of the coming and going of social leaders, of
their dinners and lunches
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