p. 77: The division of the labour of camping amongst four gave us all some leisure at night, and I found time to read through again The Cloister and the Hearth and Westward Ho! with much pleasure, quite agreeing with Sir Walter Besant’s judgment that the former is one of the best historical novels ever written. There are few more attractive roysterers in literature to me than Denys of Bergundy, with his “Courage, camarades, le diable est mort!” This matter of winter reading is a difficult one, because it is impossible to carry many books. My plan is to take two or three India-paper volumes of classics that have been read before, and renew my acquaintance with them. But reading by the light of one candle, though it sufficed our forefathers, is hard on our degenerate eyes.
p. 130-31, in government schools for Eskimau children in Unalakl ík : The school next day pleased me still more [than mission services], and I was glad that I had a school-day at the place. I heard good reading and spelling, saw good writing, and listened with real enjoyment to the fresh young voices raised again and again in song. There was, however, something so curiously exotic that for a moment it seemed irresistibly funny, in “The Old Oaken Bucket,” from lips that have difficulty with the vowel sounds of English; from children that never saw a well and never will see one;—and I was irreverent enough to have much the same feeling about “I love thy templed hills,” etc., in that patriotic Plymouth Rock song which is so little adapted for universal American use that, in a gibe not without justice, it has been called “Smith’s Country, ‘tis of Thee.” One wonders if they sing it in the Philippine schools; and, so far as these regions are concerned, one wishes that some teacher with a spark of genius would take Goldsmith’s hint and write a simple song for Esquimau children that should
“Extol the treasures of their finny seas
And their long nights of revelry and ease”;
the splendour of summer’s perpetual sunshine and the weird radiance of the Northern Lights; but prosody is not taught in your “Normal” school. The thing is a vain, artificial attempt to impose a whole body of ideas, notions, standards of comparison, metaphors, similes, and sentiments upon a race to which, in great measure, they must ever be foreign and unintelligible. Here were girls reading in a text-book of so-called physiology, and, as it happened, the lesson that day was on the evils of tight lacing! The reading of that book, I was informed, is imposed by special United States statute, and the teacher must make a separate report that so much of it has been duly gone through each month before the salary can be drawn. Yet none of those girls ever saw a corset or ever will. One is reminded of the dear old lady who used to visit the jails and distribute tracts on The Evils of Keeping Bad Company.
p. 252: The little log church that is still, as a local artist put it, “the only thing in Fairbanks worth making a picture of,” no longer stands open all day and all night as the town’s library and reading-room, but has with drawn into decorous Sabbath use in favour of the commodious public library built by a Philadelphia churchman….
p. 265: Arthur, my half-breed boy, had recently been reading a story by Jack London, dealing with the Indians in the vicinity of Tanana, where he was bred and born, and his indignation at the representation of his people in this story was amusing. The story was called The Wit of Porportuk, and it presented a native chief in almost baronial state, with slaves waiting upon him in a large banqueting hall and I know not what accumulated wealth of furs and gold. Such pictures are far more flagrantly untrue to any conditions that ever existed in Alaska than anything Fenimore Cooper wrote about the Five Nations.
p. 317: In this book a good deal has been said, and, it may be thought by the reader, said with a good deal of asperity, about the whites who frequent Indian communities and come most into contact with the native people; yet the more the author sees of this class, the less is he disposed to modify any of the strictures he has put upon it. “The Low-Down White” is the subject of one of the most powerful and scathing of Robert Service’s ballads, those most unequal productions with their mixture of strength and feebleness, of true and forced notes, the best of which should certainly live amongst the scant literature of the North. And, indeed, the spectacle of the man of the higher race, with all the age-long traditions and habits of civilisation behind him, descending below the level of the savage, corrupting and debauching the savage and making this corrupting and debauching the sole exercise of his more intelligent and cultivated mind, is one that has aroused the disgust and indignation of whites in all quarters of the world. Kipling and Conrad have drawn him in the East; Robert Louis Stevenson in the South Sea Islands; any army officer will draw him for you in the Philippines, which lack as yet their great delineator; Service has not overdrawn him on the Yukon.
p. 324-25: One thing pleased me at these road-houses. The only reading-matter in any of them consisted of magazines bearing the rubber stamp of Saint Matthew’s Reading Room at Fairbanks, part of a five-hundred-pound cargo of magazines which the mission launch Pelican brought to the Iditerod the previous summer; virtually the only reading-matter in the whole camp. It was pleasant to know that we had been able to avert the real calamity of a total absence of anything to read for a whole winter throughout this wide district. But, although they were brought to the Iditerod and distributed absolutely free, each of these magazines had cost the road-house keeper twenty-five cents for carriage over the trail from Iditerod City, and they had been read to death. Some of them were so black and greasy from continued handling that the print at the edges of the pages was almost unreadable.