[Manchester—Friday, 15 September 1871]

Friday. Sepr 15. Yesterday morning went to Boston—found everything going well except with Patrick who had been drinking. Went to Mr. Schlesinger’s wedding in the evening & reception at Mr. Agassiz’s house. Sat with Professor Peirce in the church who told me he had lately been at Penobscot Bay on the coast of Maine. And few persons have the least idea of the beauty of the place, endless variety and wonderful beauty. He spoke also of Martha’s Vineyard and the pleasant custom of living in tents which the people have there for two or three months in the summer. The whole affair is entirely unique and worth going to see. He spoke also of Agassiz’s proposed absence, of the pleasure he (A.) took in the thought, of the sacrifice it would be to his wife, of the hateful life of the sea endured during such a length of time “of the heart for any fate” which so distinguishes her. This led him to speak of the father of the bride Count de Pourtales whom he considers one of the noblest men it has ever been his good fortune to meet. “I never saw a man who could endure so much, and hide it unsuspected in the silence of his own heart”.

We were here interrupted by the entrance of Phillips Brooks the officiating clergyman, then by the modest entrance of Mr. & Mrs Agassiz and soon by the bridegroom and latest by the count bringing in the beautiful bride. She moved [in] a mist of lace through which I could see diamonds gleam but it was impossible to see her face. Afterward at the house I talked with Longfellow. He said it was a curious fact to himself to observe how easily he could read any language he had ever studied even though he had not spoken it for 30 years. He found himself talking Spanish in this way with considerable ease a few days ago. “I presume you have read much Spanish in the meantime” I said. No he replied I have not, I cannot recall reading any thing in Spanish for many years and it is certainly 30 since I gave it any study. Also in German it is the same. I cannot imagine what it would be to take up a language & try to commit it at this period of my life. I cannot remember how or when I ever heard them—now tonight I have been speaking German and without finding “the least difficulty.”

Here he was seduced away by dear J. to have some supper. Then Mr. Peirce came again. He told me speaking of Butler and the approaching election for Governor—that he could not help believing in a man who was such a power. He had heard things said adverse to him as a man of principle—of this he knew nothing—he only knew when he went to Washington to obtain an appropriation of $30,000,000 for the coast survey, not a man in the Committee knew of what he was speaking or cared to hear except Ben. Butler. He rose, made the Committee listen to him, told them of what practical advantage to the country this work could be, and carried the question. It was put with such power and clearness they could not dispute the passage of the bill. Prof. Peirce said daring was such a fine element in character, but it must be daring which did not know that it was daring. He said he was conscious of this one himself when there was question about a planet Leverrie (I think he said) which he had been studying. Suddenly he came out with a theory quite adverse to what the world of astronomers had conceived and everybody said how bold! whereas he did not know it was bold, he was simply saying what came into his mind as truth—Wendell Phillips he thinks speaks in the same grand way. He places Sumner very high as an intellect and when I said there was no such power in political life in America in our time as Butler he was disposed to put Sumner above. I believe I half persuaded him to my side for Sumner is a leader of ideas rather than men, a higher thing surely but not the same.

All our talk took place in Agassiz’s library—a large bare room filled with books mostly bound in rough paper labelled by his own hand—evidently a working library not a book in it for show or with what would be called a good binding.

Today Emerson came in to see Mr. Fields. He was full of the poems of William Chaning, “Monadnock” etc. He had come down to see Dr. Clarke about Mrs Emerson. “Physicians are very shy of my dame” he said “but Edward who has just gone to Europe made me promise to go to Dr. Clarke and get him to promise to see his mother.” He smiled at the idea of his friend Bartol’s large possessions in land—“Who upholds him in such deeds?” he asked. His daughter I think said J. but I fear it is bringing poor Mrs Bartol earlier to her grave. “Well she will not have far to go” he said referring to her bending & short figure. He is intensely occupied so much so as to grudge every hour he spends in Boston. He looks well! Surely work agrees with him.


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