Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
A Gentleman and His Boots
(From “A Traveler from Altruria”)

By William Dean Howells

(At this point in the Anthology the editor had inserted a passage from a Socialist romance by the “dean of American letters.” Mr. Howells was willing that the passage should be used, but his publishers refused consent. The editor is, nevertheless, quite willing to do what he can to assist in making known a beautiful and lovable book.
  Altruria is a land in which human brotherhood prevails; and the traveler from Altruria comes to America expecting that he will feel at home. He is taken in charge by a friend, and becomes a guest at a summer-hotel, where he causes dismay by assisting the porter at his task of blacking boots in the early morning hours. The Altrurian is entirely unable to comprehend what harm he has done by this procedure. The porter had sprained his wrist handling a heavy trunk, and stood in need of help; also the Altrurian had found the blacking of boots a most interesting activity. He is informed that a gentleman would not black even his own boots, if he could help it. He inquires in bewilderment if a gentleman will let others do for him things which he considers it degrading to do for himself; and when he is told that such is the case, he remarks quietly that the word gentleman does not mean at all the same thing in America that it does in his native land)

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