[Boston—Wednesday, 12 January 1870]
Jany. 12. During Mother’s & Sarah’s visit here the latter told me an odd incident with regard to one of the small hospitals for children. The large number of them are at once adopted but occasionally one comes too deformed or homely to hope for such good fortune. A short time since a child was brought in with a bad squint, one which made the child so excessively plain as to give small hope of its ever being taken out of the hospital yet it had scarcely been with them two days when a gentleman and lady called to ask if they had a child with a squint for they wished to adopt a child with this peculiarity—it appears they had lately lost an infant who was born with a squint and they received the new child with every token of pleasure at their success!!!
Yesterday morning Mr. Whittier breakfasted here and stayed until 12 o’clock. His simple Quaker talk was a cordial to dear J. who is not well.
He spoke of Burns as being next to Shakspeare in the hearts of humanity. Talking of sleeping he said about once in six months he had a “solid hour of sleep” between day & day and he felt after it like a new man—usually he could not sleep.
He thinks B.T. is injuring himself by excess in eating and drinking. “How strange it is,” he said “that we can see our friends driving on to destruction sometimes and can do so little to help them. Almost nothing. Our intentions are misconstrued and we are accused of meddling and affect nothing.”
He spoke with sincere love & eulogy of John Bright—“I have been re-reading his speeches lately and speaking of Longfellow & Tennyson, I had rather be Longfellow than Tennyson and John Bright than either. It is great to be able to influence others as he can.” He spoke with a kind of horror of the vanity and conceit of authors. Why can’t they [illegible word] the work & hope he said—on the whole he felt that a higher standard of man and author has been thus far preserved in America. More simplicity less self consciousness of life and manner. Even that great man he said (looking at Wordsworth) could say extraordinary things about himself. He puts W. far far above Tennyson. Too much polish in the latter to suit the Quaker.
Perhaps he is right but it is so fine that I think we, who stand so near can scarcely judge. He said women were very hard and cruel to each other.