[Boston—Tuesday, 27 October 1868]

Tuesday Oct. 27. Jamie has had quite an interesting day. Dr. Bellows of New York was waiting to see him when he went to his office this morning. He is proposed as President of Harvard University and wanted to sound about the subject—said there would be little reason for his taking the office—and only under one condition would he have anything to do with the matter—he should submit a poem for the entire subversion of the old ways and if the faculty could not agree to allow this he should withdraw. The university is dwindling before the mighty colleges of the West and it is time “something was done”. He says if he has any gift it is that of the “gab” or extemporary speaking to the multitude & if he knows himself his only ambition is to build a great church among the slums of New York and spend his life in trying to track and help the poor rotten wretches who are drowning there. He said if Bartol were a woman he should send him to Somerville. His trouble is obstinate unviability. He does not advance, but sticks mildly in the sediment of the past. (This last phrase he did not use but it seems close to his idea.)

Dr Bellows had scarcely gone when Mr. Emerson came in. Ellen is going to Fayal. “There could be no little pic-nic, no Sunday School, no party, in Concord without Ellen; she has done too much; her blood has become thin and she cannot keep warm. Her mammy wept tears of blood over her decision.” He was pleased at the success of his lectures, for he had made more money than ever before. “How little the audience knew of the small part the lecture has to do with bringing them together.” He spoke of seeing 2 reporters present. Ellen tipped him the wink & he spoke to them and said it was not allowed “whereat they both replied they were only at work for their own gratification & of course I could say nothing more. But afterward the Lord Smote one of them and he came & confessed.”

Then came Phillips Brooks the most popular preacher of the Episcopal church at present. He spoke of the delight he felt in being in Boston & away from the narrownesses of Philadelphia. Family prejudice & fashion hold cruel mastery there over the people. The most interesting men of the place are physicians, there being a college for medicine established there, but last year, when Dr. Weir Mitchell one of the brightest stars in that profession in the country was proposed for a little professorship of some local esteem, he was rejected because his father had not been in high standing before him. Being a proud nature & a man of fine nervous temperament the rejection affected him deeply.

We cannot sometimes refrain from saying What a cruel world! Mr. Brooks evidently hopes sometime to come to Boston when the missionary work to which he has pledged himself in Philadelphia is well begun.

Next came Edwin Booth. He is working too hard—played Macbeth & Hamlet in one day on a cup of coffee. I ventured in to the lower room just as he was coming down the stairs & stepped aside till he should be gone. His deep sonorous voice sounded with a melancholy sweetness as far away as the air would carry it.

Last night was Mr Emerson’s lecture on Brook Farm. It was full of wit and the audience was like a firm elastic wall against which he threw the balls of witticisms while they bounded prettily back into his hand. The finest thing he said perhaps was quoted from Horatio Greenough, whom he esteemed as one of the greatest men of our country. “Beauty is the prophet of function, action is function & character is function made monumental.” (I haven’t it quite right—yet it is near, but right is so much better than “about right” as the Yankee said). (How dear Jamie laughed over this absurd passage when I read it to him in his illness—of course I have got it all bewitched.) There is nothing more elusive than Mr. Emerson’s wit. It pierces and is gone—some of the broader touches such as the clothes-pins dropping out of the pockets of the Brook Farm ladies as they danced in the evening—were apparent to all & irresistable. Nothing could be more amusing than the boyish pettiness with which, in speaking of the rareness of best company he said are often found ourselves left to the society of “cats and fools.”

The day was beautiful, the bay sheeted with silver mist making every poor sloop a rich vessel decked with gonfalons.

At night we heard, & we pray heaven it may not be true, that Mrs Hawthorne has sailed for Europe but has put her accusation against Ticknor & Fields into the hands of a New York lawyer. Can such things be?

Jamie was obliged to stay far into the night with Osgood Clarke  & a lawyer, looking up a painful matter nearer home. I fear the firm must be dissolved.

This is the month [we] were engaged 14 years ago!! It seems but yesterday from one point (tho’ there are always the two points, as Dickens said)—Dear J. has given me an exquisite Aqua Marine stone to mark the loving time.


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