[Boston—Thursday, 10 December 1868]

Dec. 10. Dinner company yesterday, Lucy Larcom, Mr. Clark, Osgood, Anthony & wife & Aldrich & wife. A merry time. Aldrich declared that Dickens had put us by name into the “New Uncommercial”; we declared it was impossible and bet against him, a large turkey. We waited impatiently for Patrick but when he arrived there was the imitation of Sterne with Jamie as Eugenius and I as “Eliza, or shall we say Annie.” We laughed enough over it although I felt rather inclined to write Dickens “an imitation” in turn, saying “and why, Ingenius, quitting these regretful shores . . . did you do it?” I was to tell the truth a little surprised. Aldrich was witty, full of slight quips, and always kindly and gentle. His wife just out for the first time since the birth of twins.

It is an afflicting mystery to me why neither Dickens nor Dolby have alluded to Osgood or sent him one word since their return. He was devoted to their interest while they were here and I cannot solve the enigma by any ingenuity.

Henry Howard Brownell passed the evening here. He has just returned from a voyage to Europe in the Frigate Franklin with Admiral Farragut. If they did not go as John Lord did to lecture in N.Y. according to Abbott (author of the Life of Napoleon) “for the glory of God and the Speigler Institute” they did go for the glorification of America & themselves. This was no fault of Brownell, but being on Farragut’s staff it could not well be otherwise. Brownell is now 48 years old, all his year & a half has passed in doing 6 months travel, the rest has been monotonous sea-life. The vividness of his descriptions of the talk on ship-board, of the long yarns, of arguments whereon nobody is persuaded to anything, of the sentry who tramped every night above his head so he was frequently compelled to sit up until four o’clock in the morning till he was utterly wearied, of the wonderful fall of a man through the rigging one hundred and forty yards, breaking an iron bar between 2 & 3 inches thick (to be sure there was a flaw in it) in his passage and wood strong as our table top and in 6 weeks walking about like any of us, all these things told as he could tell them were exceedingly interesting. He told us of the feeling of shallowness which possessed him yet he appears to have been the life of the ship from his quick humanity, his love of literature and faith in fun. He was full of Mark Twain’s absurdities “The Jumping Frog” in especial. From this he branched away to the joy he had in standing on Shelley’s ground—of Spezzia, Pisa, the Lido, where he picked up shells as Shelley did with Byron, at his grave and on the baths of Caracalla. He spoke of the injustice done to Byron and of his marvellous descriptions; how he praised his words as they stood looking at Hymettus which “flowed like a white pillar on the sky.”

Then I made one of dear Dickens’s punches not knowing that Brownell considered himself the first concocter of that celebrated potation; nevertheless he smiled benevolently on my undertaking and praised the result at last. He said Gilman (Arthur) was at college with him and proved himself a youth of extraordinary promise and ability. He wrote a keen satire upon the Professors and in endeavoring to shield Gilman, Brownell got turned out of college himself. Jamie was much struck by an expression B. quoted from G’s satire where in speaking of the Caduceus twined with serpents (the society’s badge) he spoke of the two Profs as a “pair of serpents.”

Brownell saw with deep interest the copy of Diogenes Laertius, which we have, once owned jointly by Shelley & Leigh Hunt, the very copy from which Shelley quotes. B. reads Greek quite fluently as he proved by reading this off. He has translated something of Homer, scholars say remarkably, in hexameters word for word, but this was fifteen years ago and he will never do it now he says. He has been long occupied upon a poem which he does not intend to publish in his life-time because of the heresies it contains and he is having it set up at Cambridge without dividing it into lines so that nobody shall discover at the office what he is about. He gave us one paragraph which rolls along marvellously and is easily divisible by any reader of verse into the rhythmic poetry it really is.

I wish I could recall B’s strong simple expressions. There is a pervading honesty in the man which makes you recognize his religious nature at once. He has a fine head but small. He is a full man as J. says.


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