[Boston—Thursday, 28 January 1864]

Thursday morning. Whittier and Emerson came to see J.T.F. W. looks very ill. He is anxious for his sister who has no health. He brought a ballad however and stayed talking pleasantly. The three had a great laugh over a story of Whittier’s about an old country preacher by the name of Batcheldor. This old man used to make numerous converts and for 80 years was highly regarded by his country neighbors but when in his eightieth year he fell in love with the wife of a brother preacher and ran away with her. In less than a year he returned penitent and lived 20 years more preaching and making converts.

Emerson said to Whittier, “you formerly bragged of bad health I trust you are all right now.”

J.T.F. passed the evening with Longfellow who was ill with influenza. He found the poet sitting over his translation of Dante and making notes. He grows very sensitive about newspapers. There was some sad nonsense about a poem by Stoddard called “Adsum” in the “Commonwealth” which he said he feared Stoddard might think he wrote. These feelings are unlike the Longfellow of old. Ah! I fear. I fear!

Jamie amused him by telling of Parsons at the party of the evening before. P. was the worse for two days at Sudbury Inn alone with the whiskey bottle and behaved queerly enough. When he saw Dr Ellis walk past him, “Ah, Fields, it gives me a shudder to see that man, he will be cutting us up one day.”

Poor Parsons! His heritage is the worst any man can have! His instincts are good. But his wife must drive him to distraction I should think at times. He has been a good son and brother and would be under some circumstances it may be, a good husband but the demons of drink and discontent pursue him. He is vitally ignoble. And yet must I say it, a poet.

J.T.F. gave me a description at dinner of an interview he once had with Charles Sprague. He had called upon him on a matter of business connected with literature and took the occasion to say how fine he considered the “Ode Upon Shakspeare.” He mentioned one passage about the murderer which he thought especially “shakspearian.” “Ah! said Mr Sprague how well I remember the day when I wrote that. I was keeping a grocer’s shop on Tremont Row at the time, Sprague and Callender was the firm—it was a cold stormy winter’s day and I was alone in the shop sitting over a sheet iron stove. I had just got to this passage, & was hoping nobody would come in, when a man opened the door and asked for a quart of train oil. Well, sir, I filled his vessel for him and handed it back and then my hands reeking with train oil I finished that passage.”

Call from Captain Raymond who says Genl. Frémont has been worth two millions of dollars but he is not the man to keep it; he is over head and ears in the Pacific rail-road. There are two companies but Frémont has the only proper route. Already half a million of his private property has gone there.

All the officers out of service are paid half-pay after the first six months. Frémont will not resign. Another administration may accept his services, he thinks.


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