[Boston—Monday, 16 November 1868]

Monday—another perfect day. Mr. Emerson lectured in the evening upon Greatness, chiefly, heroic scholars and men of heroic thought which has been the Seed Grain of the world. His quotations and illustrations appeared inexhaustible. His old & prime favorites, Thomas Taylor, Napoleon, Duperron among the moderns, came out again, ever fresh.

Afterward he came to see us! Whittier, Whipple, C. Sumner came also. Whittier said when E. came in—“I had to choose between hearing thee at thy lecture and coming here to see thee, I chose to see thee. I could not do both.”

Sumner gave us a strange picture of Gov. Aiken of So. (or was it North?) Carolina. He dated Johnson’s defection from the right course from an interview he had with Aiken about a month after Mr. Lincoln’s death. Aiken had then been arrested, carried to Washington, and was about to be condemned when he requested an interview with the President. As there appeared no good reason for denying the request he was admitted and was closeted with him a long time and the result was he was set at large on parole.

Shortly after this Mr. Sumner met Baron Gerolt one day who asked S. to dine with him that night. “Don’t change your dress” the old man said, but come just as you are. We shall be by ourselves. When Mr. S. arrived at the house however he saw three or four people & at once recognized among them the grey hair & venerable beard of Gov. Aiken. Baron Gerolt said there is an old friend of yours here Gov. Aiken and I shall be delighted to bring you together again. Mr. Sumner did not know what to say; he bowed coldly and was looking to see if he might retreat when dinner was announced and he found himself one side of the Baron & the Governor on the other. There was nothing then to be done but to make some conversation about mutual Carolina friends & the like topics into which the Gov. entered with eagerness which was only too apparent. At length both becoming softened as dinner progressed the Gov. told Mr. S. that his 6000 bottles of old Madeira when danger of war threatened had been sent back into the country where it had been drunk by the Rebel troops as they marched through, who doubtless wished all the time that it had been army whiskey. (Mr. S. said the lowest value of the Madeira must have been $5.00 a bottle.)

The same fate fell upon his silver plate. He had purchased some years ago (£6000) six thousand guineas worth of plate in England. This also he sent away for safe keeping and he heard afterward of Sherman’s Bummers frying their beef steaks on his silver salvers. He had been possessed of 1200 slaves and the finest rice & sugar plantation in the country but now he has nothing. The lands must remain but they are at present unproductive & he was dressed in a suit of army blue which appeared to be the only dress he possessed. His fortune had been formerly valued at several millions. No one else at table could quite match this story as such wealth is rare any where but every one of these gentlemen except Mr. Whipple I believe had received either letters or visits from South Carolinians of good birth & breeding now in distress. Whittier and Whipple agreed in their admiration of the poems of Henry Timrod a young man who wrote stirring poems during the war and died soon after. He was a friend of Paul Hayne. Mr. S. had received a letter from the Duke of Argyle announcing the death of the Duchess of Sutherland. It was full of feeling & Mr. Emerson read it aloud. Mr. E. remembered the Duke as a very young man showing him the Murillos at the request of the Duchess of S. at Stafford House—which Mr Sumner says is perhaps the finest residence now in the world. This led them on to speak of the riches of the English nobility. There are six dukes now allied to the Argyle family which makes it one of the most powerful in England. There are 3 noblemen who have estates in Scotland—the Marquis of Breadalbane, Duke of Buccleugh and one other whose name escapes me, who may ride one hundred miles from their front doors to the sea over their own estates.

When Mr. Emerson came in, in the evening, he brought one of the beautiful bouquets J. had placed on his desk. “I bring you back your flowers!” he said gently. Before he went we suggested he should read his “May-Day” to us in the Spring. The idea pleased him sincerely and I cannot but think he may do it if we all live. Mr. Whittier stayed, wonderful to relate, until nearly eleven oclock.

The night was glorious and the lecture hall full. Many persons of note were there and almost all who had any local prominence. There was no loud applause, but little shivers of delight or approbation ran over the audience like winds over a corn field from time to time. We walked swiftly home across the Common.

In the setting down of these jottings, many things escape. I wish especially not to forget an expression Mr. Parton let fall when Bayard Taylor had been speaking of some brazen person, perhaps T.T. of Brooklyn. “I never can imagine” said P. “what becomes of that awful sense of the presence of a human being in such people.”

Mr. Whipple surprised me last night as he does often by his fullness and readiness. If his manner were something different he would be more generally esteemed. But he is not only simple as a child which is an inexhaustible charm but he has a child’s lack of tact and address so that one sometimes dreads his very realness which is in reality such a relief and pleasure. We had scarcely sat down together, for instance, last night & Mr. Sumner was telling us about Mr. T.S. Fay, of his excellences and of his good work here in teaching teachers just now when Mr. Whipple asking he if were a married man & what sort of a woman his wife was. Considering this was the first time we had all sat down together since Mr. Sumner’s own unhappy experience I was shocked but much more so when he started out in the same direction again in the course of the evening with regard to somebody else. Notwithstanding this, his general knowledge of literature equalled if not excelled that of the others & his illustrations and additions to what Mr. Emerson had already given were very fine. Whipple grows as much as any man we know or know of.


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