[Boston—Saturday, 25 February 1871]

Saturday night February 25. was Jamie’s Club again. After it was over a part of the company adjourned to our tea-table—Longfellow, Bret Harte (his first appearance among the literate of our shores) Holmes, Gay, Hunt, Ernest Longfellow, Frank Sanborn, & Jo. Bradlee. Bret Harte was the guest of the day and the Club was unusually large. Jamie thought him very satisfactory. His size is rather under than over the ordinary, his face deeply pitted with small pox which has left a redness about the eyes as it is so apt to do. Otherwise he is fine looking and reminded us a little of what the young Dickens must have been. Less abounding, but of kindred nature. Fine hazel eyes, full lips, large moustache, an honest smile—so much for his personal. His accent slightly western and his colloquial expression careless and inelegant often. His aplomb is good and not too great. He is modest & refined. Quite unconscious of himself as a prominent person during the evening, but talking and listening by turns altogether naturally. Speaking of the companionship we have heard so much of between the rattlesnake and the prairie dog, he said he had often seen the rattlesnake, owl, and Squirrel coming from the same hole and living quite happily together. The warning of the snake before he struck prevented him from being as dangerous as many reptiles because it gave time for escape. Dr. Holmes then cited a case he had known of the rapidity with wh. the poison of the rattlesnake spread. He had seen a part of the flesh of the dog, pinched up & held tightly while the snake was allowed to sting, the flesh was then immediately cut out but in half an hour the dog would be dead. Swift as light, and in spite of the pinching of the arteries which would prevent the free circulation of the blood certainly, the poison flew to the vital part of the frame.— Dr. Holmes turned the table then to homeopathy and struggled with Longfellow as he so often does to endeavor to persuade him, but L. sits and smiles over the rational ravings of the Dr. but says little. Bret Harte is not a homeopathist and brought forward as a point against it that it had no fraternity with science. Science advances but homeopathy is just where it was when Hahneman promulgated his first extraordinary doctrines. Harte talked somewhat from time to time of the western life and landscape. Speaking with me of Miss Phillips whom he likes as much as we do as a singer & woman (I should have put it the other way) I asked if she had made a pecuniary success there with the public—I don’t know, he said doubtfully. I think if the Angel Gabriel should go to California he would not make a success! He told Mr. Fields a story of two men stopping at a western Inn. One used wonderfully powerful language in swearing and the other expressed to the Innkeeper appreciation of this strong language—Oh! said the Inn keeper, that’s nothing, that ain’t! You should hear him exhort an indolent and impudent mule.

William Hunt was as usual one of the most interesting persons present. He has flashes of light about him which are extraordinary, like no one else. He is always deeply delighted to tell & be told tales of animals. His dramatic action is marvellous. What would I give to put on paper some idea of a story he tells of going to a place in Paris where the man had only a monkey and an elephant to exhibit. He was determined therefore to make the most of the show and he had arranged the elephant who just fitted the place with no room at all left over, with a napkin about him as if he were dining, and the monkey dressed as a Garçon de Café came dancing in with the plates one after another. In he would come that monkey with long strides flinging down the tin plate before the elephant while it contained salads and such things with perfect nonchalance, but when it came to the nuts & raisins, his dance was altogether vertical, he being occupied with gobbling up the nuts & raisins, en route, so that finally arrived at the elephant he flung the empty plate before him. No words can give the faintest idea of the fun Hunt gives vent to in telling this.

He caught himself the other night, too, daring for the first time to look at the Charcoal drawings of his which we own—especially the flowers he delighted in—that heath with those starry blooms—the paper is left, there is no white laid on—there never could be any white put on to shine like that! he said. I wonder who the fellow was who did that. It was done with a great piece of charcoal which just left the spots clear—Ha! I’d like to see the man who could do that again! I couldn’t! By George! I tell you what, that little bit, (drawing his finger round and round the heather top, that fellow must have known he had done a good thing by the time that was finished.

Whittier came to breakfast last Thursday morning and Miss Larcom passed the night here. Imogen was still with me. Whittier was deeply interested in his collection of poems for the young and says with a kind of sly smile that “it is going to be the best that ever was made.” By the way he says if thee sees anything not quite right in it, it will be Lucy’s fault (L.L. is to assist him.) This he says laughingly before her.


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