[Boston—Monday, 3 August 1863]

August 3. Yesterday we drove out in the afternoon hoping to find the house of Mr Kirke in Dorchester. This gentleman was formerly secretary to Mr Prescott and Thackeray said of him one day to J.T.F. “he is a devilish sight more clever than Prescott ever was.” He was indispensable to Mr Prescott. The latter said one day to Mr F. “at last I have bought Kirke body and soul” meaning he had promised to leave him an annuity at his death as well as to pay him somewhat more than had been his custom during life nevertheless the pittance was small enough for a man with wife and children and one day Kirke confessed that a mood of mind sometimes overcame him when thinking of those who were dependent upon him that prompted him to throw himself over the end of the wharf. During these years of retirement and bondage Mr Kirke was revolving the plan of a history of Charles the Bold, four volumes of which are at last completed. When two volumes were finished they were presented to Mr F. for publication. I read the history and we both found it a noble interesting work—but it was unfinished—the war was just culminating—and it required a larger capital than the firm had at command just then to publish it. Therefore with deep regret it was declined; but Mr F. promised to introduce Mr K. who by this time was suffering from poverty to Mr. Lippincott of Philadelphia and recommend the work. This was immediately arranged and the four volumes purchased—three thousand dollars to be paid at the time of publication and a percentage afterward. The sum looked very large to the author. He was deeply grateful. The next question was as to its appearance in England. J.T.F. presented it to Smith and Elder when there were but two volumes. They promised to give a large sum for them—but the book grew, the relations with America became complicated and they retreated from the agreement. Nevertheless now Mr Kirke will go himself to England (he was born in Halifax) will obtain a copyright and as much money as possible. A few days ago he called at Mr F.’s office. Just before he went away J. said “Kirke I will give you letters to John Murray and William Longman in London perhaps they may do you some good.” Mr Kirke had already risen to go and had walked as far as the door, he came hastily back the perspiration standing in great drops on his forehead. “Fields” said he “I don’t know how to thank you, this is what I wanted to ask you today but was too damned proud, you have suggested exactly what I most desired.” With that he went away leaving the friend who had proposed and would perform this act as unconsciously as he would draw his breath deeply touched by the feeling of this man.

Dr Holmes dropped in last night about his oration which the city council have had printed and superbly bound. He has addressed it to the “Common Council” instead of the “city council” and he is much disturbed. J.T.F. told him it made but small consequence and he went off comforted. One of the members of the Council told Mr F. it was amusing to see “the Professor” while this address was passing through the press. He was so afraid something would be wrong that he would come in to see about it half a dozen times a day until it seemed as if he considered this small oration of more consequence than the affairs of the state. Yet laugh as they may about these little peculiarities of “our Professor” he is a most remarkable man. It is pleasant to find he agrees with us in our estimate of “Spiridion” the newspaper correspondent from Paris. He says he always makes time to read his letters and they are immensely clever. His name is J.D. Osborne we took pains to discover when in Paris. We found him poor and proud. Mr F. was able to assist him somewhat by enlarging his correspondence and of late he obtained a place for him in the new Publishers’ Circular printed in Philadelphia by Geo. W. Childs. His grateful letter for this appointment was sad to read. Very sad. Such suffering must have been endured before so proud a man could need to feel grateful for a chance of honest labor. He has a wonderful knowledge of newspapers. Seems never to forget what he may once have seen in files however venerable.


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