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II.  Harold Bell Wright's First Published Works 


In 1921, Gelett Burgess edited My Maiden Effort, Being the Personal Confessions of Well-known American Authors as to their Literary Beginnings. In that volume Harold Bell Wright, treating his writing as a life of crime, says, "My initial offense in the long series of atrocities that brought me to my present degradation was committed in The Christian Standard, a religious weekly published in Cincinnati.   As I remember, the year was Eighteen Hundred and Ninety-five.  Thank God I have forgotten the details."

Actually the year was 1894. The Christian Standard, the official paper of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), published five of his articles in 1894, plus a final piece in 1896.

Wright wrote all these articles during the two years he was a student at Hiram College's preparatory school. Wright was 22-24 years old when he penned these articles.

Thanks to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for recording the early editions of the  Christian Standard on microfilm, and to the Disciples Seminary Foundation, Claremont, CA, for making the microfilm available.



1. “Are You________?”  January 6, 1894. Page 39

Dear Reader: --Let us spend a few minutes in the art gallery this beautiful afternoon. We will not go to the Powers gallery at Rochester; neither will we cross the water to Paris, Vienna, or Rome, nor will we visit the collection at the World’s Fair. A visit to these places would be delightful, no doubt, but there are pictures more true to nature, and of vastly more importance to the world than those painted on canvas by the old masters, worth their weight in gold though they are. The gallery that we will visit to-day is the great art gallery of God—the world—and the pictures are painted by yourselves on the lives of your fellow men.

The first picture as you enter is that of a quiet country home. It is evening, and you, if you know what it is to be a wanderer without a home, will feel your heart throb at the peaceful scene before you. You can almost catch the rustle of the mother’s dress, and hear her soft voice as she goes quietly about her evening’s work. The father, seated by the fire in his comfortable armchair, over his pipe, is thoughtfully watching his two boys, who are greatly interested in a game of euchre. What!, you ask, a game of cards in a home like this? Oh, yes; this is not a Christian home; the father and mother are good, moral people, and highly respected by the world, but they have never confessed Christ, and are trying to bring up their boys without the Bible. The cards that you see are part of their plan. The father says: “I give my boys all the cards they want at home, and they won’t want to go away to play.” Very good logic, you say; there is no harm in a game of cards if played at home. But let us look at the next picture. It is the scene of one of those brilliant, fashionable resorts that may be found in any of our large cities. Standing amid the gay throng you see one whose face looks strangely familiar. Yes, it is the younger of the two lads whom you saw in the first picture. He seems to be eagerly talking to the tall, handsome gentleman by his side. You wonder what they are saying—listen—the gentleman is asking the young man if he ever plays cards. Look closely, and such is the wonderful skill of the artist that you can almost see his eyes sparkle, and catch the subdued excitement in his voice as you fancy you hear his reply: “Oh, yes, I’ve played often with father, mother and brother at home.”

The next picture has a fascination about it which holds you spell-bound. The artist has completed the picture with such wonderful skill, that you seem to catch the excitement of the figures before you, and to hear the clink of the gold, and the sound of the shuffling cards, with now and then a fierce oath as some gambler curses his ill luck. Yes, it is a gambling hell [sic] and seated at the poker table you recognize our young friend. “Look”! you cry, he is getting rich. Ah, yes, but mark the cheek, flushed as with a high fever; that eye, glittering with an unearthly light as he watches every turn of the cards, that hand, trembling with excitement as it nervously fingers the chips before him on the green table. He has the gambler’s fever, and will never stop until the money before him has poured into the hands of the blood-stained devils around, when he will be thrust into the street penniless, desperate, and ready for anything, unless, perchance, the officers of the law raid the den before the game is ended.

Almost unconsciously your eyes turn to the quiet, peaceful home scene, to the game of euchre by the home fireside, and then back to the glittering, fascinating gambling hell [sic], and you think to yourself, “Who is to blame? Am I my brother’s keeper?” Is not the man who invites the youth to the beautiful resort in a measure responsible for his fall? Are not the parents themselves responsible for their boy’s ruin, when they taught him the game of euchre at their own home. In the sight of the world, no; in the sight of God, yes. By which will you be judged?      Harold B. Wright, Hiram, Ohio.



2. “Which?”  April 7, 1894, Page 345

Harold B. Wright

Society is divided socially into three great classes: The men of wealth, the poor laborer and the great middle class.

Morally, society may also be divided into three classes: The Christian, the sinner and the church-member. The greatest stumbling-block to-day between Christ and the sinner is that class of society, the church-members who are not Christians. But you say, the church-member who is not a Christian is a sinner, therefore, society morally can be divided into two classes only. Granted. But the more you study the matter the stronger will be your conviction, that the man who is a member of the church and not a Christian is not worthy to be classed with the ordinary sinner. He deserves a class of his own.

In this class of non-Christian church-member you will find the fashionable people – those grand, noble characters who judge man by the cut of his coat, the way in which he combs his hair, or the size of the walking-stick which he carries; those people who “don’t want any but respectable sinners to join their church.” They pay rent for their pews, and it would be a crime, indeed, to seat beside them one who is a notch lower in the social scale than themselves. They pay their minister a salary, and, of course, have the right to demand that he say nothing unpleasant in his remarks. He must preach for them, not for Christ; and in many cases I regret to say that they are his masters. They would have no further use for a minister who would read the Bible as it is written. Plain, straightforward hell is too suggestive to them, and must be softened and toned down to suit their delicate ears. They form a class by themselves, they have a church to themselves, and now it only remains to give them a heaven to themselves.

There is also in this class of church-members the man who is in love with his pocket-book. Such a man is a church-member because it pays. It gives him influence among men, influence which he can turn to account—a bank account. Reputation means a way to make money. Character he builds for the same purpose. He has not the time to see the poor and needy at his door. He has not the time to visit the sick and the fatherless; to comfort the widows and the orphans. Their piteous prayers are wafted to him on every hand, but he hears them not. He is so engrossed in his chase after the almighty dollar that he has not the time to become acquainted with his own children, and he goes to the grave leaving nothing but the gold that he worshiped, unloved in life, forgotten in death, save through the wealth which he represented.

Then there is the indifferent church-member. He also belongs to the unchristian class. His creed is every man for himself, and God pity the one who is behind. He is happiest when he can escape from those who are without the lucre; when he can crawl into some pew by himself and sit throughout the sermon, thinking what a good man he is and how gladly he will be welcomed in the happy land beyond the grave. Such people as these whom I have endeavored to picture are doing more harm to the gospel of Jesus Christ in one week than Voltaire, Tom Paine or Bob Ingersoll would do in thirty years. They are usually much below the poor wretched creature in the slums, who makes no pretensions to being a Christian, as the [tallest?] church spire is higher than the filthiest den in which the unenviable outcast lives. Shame! Has not the poor, homeless vagabond a soul? Has he not as much right to the kingdom of heaven as though he lived in a palace? The soul of the worst drunkard that ever spent the night in the police station is just as precious in the sight of God as though he lived in a brown-stone front on Fifth Avenue, or owned a corner lot on Wall Street.

“What the world needs is a better band of us,” and, please God, it will have it some day. The day is coming when every church member will stand shoulder to shoulder with his neighbor, regardless of position, wealth, denomination, or color and by thus presenting one solid front to the enemy, will win the world for Christ.

The world needs men—men who will not fawn upon or cringe before another simply because that other owns a bank account representing thousands. The world needs women – women who will dare to respect, honor, aye, love a man even though he may not come dressed in the latest fashion, or drive a coach-and-four.

There is no being on God’s footstool that has such influence over man as woman. From the time a boy lies a babe in his mother’s arms, until, as a white-haired, old man, he is laid beneath the sod, he is under her influence, and it is to her that we must look in a great measure for the “better band of us” that is to people the world in the near future.
Hiram, O.



3. “Harmony with Discord”  November 17, 1894, Page 1122

Beauty for Ashes. –Isa. Lxi. 3.

A lady was once playing upon a piano before a small company, when a great professor of music entered the room. The lady, embarrassed at the presence of the artist, struck a false note. Before the string had ceased to vibrate the great teacher sprang to the instrument, and, touching the key, changed the false chord to a beautiful harmony.

It is so in life; when some unskilled hand has wrought nothing but false chords from a soul, the Master of life, the greatest of musicians, placing his hand upon the keys of our being, changes the false act and the false life to a grand, wonderful harmony which shall sound praises through eternity.        Harold B. Wright.
Hiram, Ohio.
 




4. “Will You?” November 24, 1894, Page 1147

Harold B. Wright

Go with me to a beautiful little village nestled among the hills of one of our eastern states. It is one of those quiet country hamlets where the people live comparatively unknown by the great world around them, and know nothing of the dangers, the hardships and the temptations of those who struggle for bread in our great cities.

On the outskirts of the village, standing back from the street and shaded by tall maples, stand a little cottage. Painted white, with honeysuckles, morning-glories and climbing-roses trained over the door, the windows and the porch; the yard filled with flowers; the neat gravel walk, with its edges fringed with white shells, leading to the open door, the little garden with its rows of current and raspberry bushes, its plum and cherry trees, rich with luscious fruit, and with the dark-green of the orchard as a background, it presents a picture of quiet home life that leaves its impression on the mind of all who pass that way. Inside the pretty young mother goes singing about her work, stopping now and then to speak to the child playing on the floor. What castles she builds as to his future life, picturing him as all that is good, kind, and noble. Ah! Mother, like the castles built by the child with his blocks, yours will fall again and again on the rock Christ Jesus.

Did you ever stand on the deck of a vessel and watch the sun-rise? The deep, mellow tones of the ship’s bell floats out over the water, away, away on every side, through the still morning air, as the hour is registered by the sailor on duty. The stars in the east grow dim and shrink from view as the first gray streaks of the morning herald the coming monarch of the day. Brighter and brighter glows the sky, first gray, then pink, then crimson, then a burst of living light as the sun leaps from his ocean bed and salutes you with the full glare of his majestic presence.

The child in the cottage is enjoying the sunrise of life. He is floating in the early morning on an ocean of mother’s love. All the world looks full of sunshine to him; but wait, as the sun of his destiny rises slowly toward the meridian of life, clouds will appear on the horizon, deep, black clouds of temptation and trouble, while nearer, ever nearer, comes heavy, threatening thunder of a life’s long battle for bread. Well is ti for him if he be not easily wrecked on those rocks of sin where so many fair barks go to pieces. Well is it if he be not lured by the sweet voices of pleasure to those shores from whence few return. Do you wish a glimpse of that land? Then go to the slums of a great city and see your brother living in a very hell of ignorance and crime. Go to the police station and see him behind the bars of the prison cell, and hear him shriek, curse and pray for freedom and drink. Go to the hospital of the insane asylum and watch his pitiful struggles as he tries in vain to escape from the imaginary serpents that are coiling their loathsome shapes about his body, or from the luring demons that fill the air around him. Stand by his body, cold, in death, awaiting the coroner’s inquest—killed while under the influence of liquor—ushered into the presence of his God, drunk. Go to the potter’s field and view the mound that marks the last resting-place of what should have been a man, but what pleasure has made a thing worse than a beast, because, foul as he is, he is immortal.

Visit this land of shipwrecks, hissing serpents and leering demons, of burning thirst, foul odors, of torture and of death. Then plant your beacon light along the shores and send the bright gleam of truth far, far across the waters, that other barks on the great ocean if life may be warned before it is too late.
Hiram, O.
 



5. “The Picture of Life”   December 29, 1894, Page 1273

An artist, wishing to produce a great painting, selects little sketches from different subjects, and blending them into one harmonious whole, gives to the world his masterpiece.
The picture of a life is wrought by little deeds of kindness, little words of comfort, and cheerful smiles of encouragement; these, blending in the nature of one being, give to the world a true man.

It is by those almost unconscious touches of the brush that the artist gives to his picture that peculiar finish which marks it as his own, and it is by the little almost unconscious words and acts of our daily life that we show to the world our true characters.

It is only by using the finest material that the artist is enabled to produce a painting that will stand the test of ages; and it is only by the purest thoughts and words that we can build a character that shall stand the test of eternity.

Let us, then, with the brush of love, and the palette of truth, and the colors of God’s holy Word, paint upon the canvas of life such a picture as will bring from the lips of the divine Critic the words, “Well done.”
Harold B. Wright.



6. “What Nature Said to the Artist”   January 11, 1896, Page 41

The Artist was not a good man. He had once confessed Christ, but now had drifted away. He knew his duty. He knew that God wanted him to work in his vineyard; but the Artist wished to work for himself. He had been reading some old letters that morning—letters that were written to him when he stood before the world as a follower of Christ; letters from his many Christian friends, encouraging him to go on in the work he had chosen; letters that brought to his mind a happy past, and as he contrasted that past with the present, he grew sad, for he realized, as never before, how far he had drifted from God and his own true self. And now he had left the village and his noisy companions and was walking through the fields. He wished to think, to be alone.

It was a warm day in spring and all nature seemed to be pleading with him to be a better man. The birds had returned from their southern homes and, as they flitted about preparing for their summer’s work, they fairly made the air ring with their melodies. As the artist approached, a squirrel scampered over the old dead leaves and up a tall chestnut tree, where from the topmost bough it chattered and scolded at him—and even the bluejay seemed to have happier note in his harsh, unmusical rattle as he flew from tree to tree. Above, the sky was blue, not gray, as winter just past, and below the grass was growing, rich and green. The very atmosphere seemed charged with life and love and, as the Artist walked, his step grew light, his chest began to glow and his eyes to sparkle, and he breathed long and deep the pure spring air as it came to him laden with the scent of growing herbs. Then turning his face toward Heaven, from the depth of his heart, he said: “Father, I thank thee.” Yet the Artist was not a good man. He went on a little further, and then, throwing himself at full length upon the grassy bank, he began to picture to himself his future. He dreamed of Paris, Rome and Venice, of foreign lands and travel, of fame, of wealth, of honor, of art and an artist’s life. He dreamed of the great masters and of the wonders wrought by them, and he longed to follow their example to give his life to painting, but something whispered, “Will it pay? Will it pay to give your soul to art and have nothing left for suffering men?” But, said the Artist, I will teach men by my pictures: I will lead them to higher, nobler thoughts.

The voice replied: “Teach men to love the Saviour. Christ ennobles all. The greatest picture you might paint could not equal in its lessons one of the millions of snow-flakes that falls upon a winter’s day. You can not cross a field in summer without crushing, at each step, more beauties than can be produced by all the galleries of the world. Can man, by his art, produce a single diamond that sparkles in the fields upon a bright December day? Can he paint the setting sun as it tips the clouds with gold, or stains the sky with crimson? Can he paint a single shaft of moonlight as it falls across his path, or reproduce on canvass a single star that glitters in the summer sky? At best, the artist is but taking notes from God, just as the student, with pencil in hand, jots down a sentence now and then as it falls from the lips of his professor. A masterpiece is but a thought placed upon the canvas to remind the world that God has said, “I Love You” for this is God’s message to man. The birds, the trees, the flowers, and the fields are but the Father’s words telling you of his great love. He whispers it in the summer breeze, he paints it in the summer skies. It falls soft as winter’s snows and light as summer showers. Every daisy in the field looks love into your face, and every rose and violet breathes it in the sweet perfume; you may see it in the harvest field, where the reapers gather in the sheaves; you may see it in the orchards where it hangs rich and tempting on the trees; you may visit the great foundry and see it in the glowing metal, or you may go to the lowly saw-mill and find it in the timber. Every stroke of the hammer and the anvil ought to tell you God is love—and every sheaf of wheat as it is garnered to the barn ought to rustle God is love. Teach this to sin-stained men and you will make them better.

The artist drew from his pocket a little Testament. It had been presented to him by one who had prayed that he might be a teacher of men—one who had watched him and pleaded with him, as day by day he drifted farther away from the Master, but one who had had the faith in him to say, “Some day your better self will triumph.” The little book opened to a marked chapter, and he read these words: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of god, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” That Artist read no farther, but his whole soul went up in the cry, “Father, accept me this day; forgive the past and make me better. Let me do Christ’s work. Let me teach the love of God to fallen men and women.” The Artist was very happy as he walked back across the fields toward the village, and it seemed to him that nature redoubled her efforts to say, God is Love, God is Love.    Harold B. Wright.



Reviews of Harold Bell Wright in The Christian Standard:

  • August 8, 1914 an editorial about HBW entitled “A Remarkable Achievement”
  • July 23, 1904 – Review of That Printer of Udell’s (Page 1048)
  • July 3, 1909 – Review of The Shepherd of the Hills (Page 1174)
  • December 11, 1909 – Review of The Calling of Dan Matthews (Page 2182)
  • May 27, 1911 – Review of The Uncrowned King (Page 863)
  • March 22, 1913 –Review of Their Yesterdays (Page 479)
  • November 5, 1927 –Review of God and the Groceryman (an Editorial Review, Page 866)

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