[Boston—Thursday, 14 January 1864]

Thursday Jan. 14. James Russell Lowell, Holmes & Bayard Taylor dined here. Lowell told us a conumdrum he had made.

Why is twice as much gold found now in California as formerly? Ans. Once it was found in two or three pints (points) now it is found in quarts (quartz).

Professor H. made one. Why is it dangerous to wear the slippers of an opera dancer? because they poison (poise on) the toes.

Taylor and Lowell drove in town from Cambridge together. Lowell spoke of the bad names given to many towns in New England and said one name for the place he was born is “Pigs gusset.” In this respect he is as badly off as Harriet Prescott who was born in Meddibemps. They talked of Thackeray and of his death at what he himself has called in one of his poems “the solemn Christmas tide” when he must lay down his pen. Talked of changes in physical condition Holmes saying he could eat almost anything set before him now at 54 which he could by no means do once. He could drink little, champagne more easily than anything else. He brought us a wonderful bottle of John Lodge’s Champagne which Mrs Lodge has just sent him. This gave Mr Lowell opportunity to laugh at Holmes for what he has said of late in print about Mr Beecher to the effect that here was a man whose “thinking marrow was not corrugated” by drink nor embrowned by meerschaum. Lowell said he had no “thinking marrow” and objected to such anatomizing and analytical terms applied to the best part of a man.

Talked of lyrics—I like your lyrics you know, Holmes, said Lowell. Well! said H. earnestly and like a child, there is something too hopping and skipping about them. The best study of metres however said Lowell may be made from Mother Goose. Why said Taylor, I was just going to express that and I fancied myself the only person who had ever observed the fact.

Holmes & Lowell disagree about Death. H. does not appreciate his grandeur as a poet. Taylor & Lowell talked of that line “Amor” &c; of the necessity of true love requited. They found there could be but one rendering despite the disputes over it.

Lowell tried to analyse a lyric. Praised Campbell with J.T.F. who was quite as much at home in these things. Said he had an early fondness for William Blake.

Bryant and Hawthorne were compared. Their quiet manner and few words thought to come from different causes. Hawthorne compared to a girl of 17. Bryant, Lowell said, was like associating with a granite boulder.

Lowell gave us a humorous account of going to the wedding of their cook with his wife.

Jamie went to see President Hill who told him he began life as a printer. After some years he was chosen professor at Cambridge and just then Prescott’s History Ferdinand and Isabbella was in press. One day he went into the printing office and said let me if you please set up a few pages of that book—so he did and pages 187 & 188 were arranged by his hand.

I have just finished reading the life—the chief lesson to be learned in it is the essential value of devotion to one worthy end in life whether a man has genius or no—he then finds himself possessed of its first quality—energy.

The last time J.T.F. saw Mr Prescott was coming up Beacon St. as he was going down a few days before his death. Have you seen the Athenæum (London) said Mr P. (it has just arrived that morning)—Yes! said J.T.F. “Good review of Philip the second said Mr P. Couldn’t you manage to slip it into the Transcript.” So it was arranged and they parted, Mr P. pleased and smiling over his success.

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