[Boston—Tuesday, 13 April 1869]

Tuesday April 13. Dr. Holmes & his wife & Mr. Whittier dined here. The talk was free, totally free from all feeling of constraint as it could not have been had another person been present. Whittier says he is afraid of strangers and Dr. Holmes is never more delightful than under just such auspices. Dr. Holmes asked Whittier’s undisguised opinion of Longfellow’s New England Tragedies—“honest opinion now,” said he. “Well, I liked them” said Whittier, half reluctantly. Evidently he had found much that was beautiful & in keeping with the spirit of the times of wh. L. wrote & their passionless character did not trouble him as it had O.W.H. Presently he added, that he was surprised to find how he had preserved almost literally the text of the old book he had lent Longfellow 12 years ago and had measured it off into verse—“Ah” said O.W.H. you have said the severest thing after all—“measured off” that’s just what he has done. It is one of the easiest, the very commonest tricks of the rhymster to be able to do this. I am surprised to see the ease with which I can do it myself. They spoke then of Evangeline which both agreed in awarding unqualified praise. Only said Whittier I always wondered, there was no terrible out burst of indignation over the outrage done to that poor colony. The tide of the story runs as smoothly as if nothing had occurred. I long thought of working up that story myself, but I am glad I did not, only I can’t understand its being so calm.

They talked on religious questions of course, the Professor holding that sin being finite, and of such rootless nature that we could both out-grow it and root it up, Whittier’s still returning to the ground that sin was a “very real thing.”

It is impossible to represent the clearness and swiftness of Dr. Holmes’s talk. The purity of heart and strength of endeavor evident in the two poets makes their atmosphere a very elevating one and they evidently mutually rejoiced in each others society.

Mrs. Holmes had not been out to dine before this winter.

Jamie sent us a pot of strawberries growing which delighted everybody.


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