[Boston—Wednesday, 2 February 1870]

Wednesday. Feby 2. Longfellow, Holmes & Bayard Taylor dined here. They all talked easily and pleasantly and as if they were at home. Mr. Longfellow put all round the idea that the English from the insularity of their temperaments were incapable of making a perfect translation. Americans, French and Germans (I should have placed the Germans before the French) have much larger power of adaptability to and sympathy in the thoughts of others. He could not allow even Chapman’s Homer to be good. On the other hand he thinks very highly of Bryant’s & anticipates much from Taylor's version of Faust. It was deeply interesting to hear Holmes & L. talk together of their books and work. They have both been students. Longfellow was speaking of the little sleep he could get now. In the old college days and after, he had the habit of studying up to 12 at night, and rising at 6 in the morning would find his way as soon as possible to his books again. This habit probably it is in part wh. now prevents his sleeping. However light the literature may be in which he indulges before retiring some chance thought may strike him as he passes up the stair-way with his bedroom candle which precludes all possibility of sleep before 2.

Taylor talked of the beauty of the 2d part of Faust, the first being vastly incomplete without it as imperfect as the Inferno of Dante without the Purgatorio or either without the Paradiso. He finds more notes to elucidate it in other works of Goethe than in literature elsewhere. All these men are laborers in the happy vineyards of literature but with a difference. Mr. Longfellow ripe in experience full of a sweetness of nature unsurpassable wears his learning gracefully; it never masters him, he holds it in subjection like a good servant ever useful at his side.

Dr Holmes, now somewhat weakened in health always feeling cold, has intellectually a certain nervousness also. He is apt to correct himself in Latin quantities, fond of an accuracy in learning which he has found it difficult to attain; he likes to bring up points in Rees Cyclopædia and queer out of the way bits of information where he is sure of his listener. Taylor lacking the ability, moral elevation, & experience of both, is more fluent, more ready to talk about himself & his work, but nevertheless brim-full of literature & kindness. In the meantime my dear Love, formerly the light and life of all—sweet, quick & loved by all is silent and sad.

God only knows what next.


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