[Manchester—Wednesday, 6 September 1871]

Wednesday Sepr 6. Dined with Mr. Longfellow at Nahant. The day was warm with a soft south wind blowing and as we crossed the beach white waves were curling up the sands. We passed Louisa’s house and went in to see her and the family for a few moments. They gave us flowers and set us most kindly on our way. The dear poet saw us coming from afar and walked as far as his little gate to meet us with such a sweet cordial welcome that it was worth going many a mile to have that alone. The three little ladies, his daughters, and Ernest’s wife, were within but they came warmly forward to give us greeting. Also Mr. Sam. Longfellow was of the party. A few moments chat in the little parlor, when Longfellow saw Holmes coming in the distance (he had an opera-glass being short sighted and was sitting on the piazza with J.) “Hullo! said he, here comes Holmes, and all dressed up too with flowers in his button hole.” Sure enough here was the Professor to have dinner with us also. He was full of talk as ever and looking remarkably well. Longfellow asked with much interest about Balaustion & Joaquin Miller, neither of which he had read. Holmes criticized as if unbearable and beyond the pale of decency Browning’s cutting of words “Flower o’ the pine” and such characteristic passages. Longfellow spoke of a volume of poems he had received of late from England in which “saw” was made to rhyme with “more”. Holmes said Keats often did that—not exactly I think said L. “dawn” and “forlorn” perhaps. Well said H. when I was in college (I think he said college, certainly while at Cambridge) and my first volume was about to appear, Mrs Folsom saw the sheets and fortunately at the very last moment for correction discovered I had made “forlorn” rhyme with “gone” and out of her own head and without having time to consult with me she substituted “sad & worn and something else which I cannot recall at this moment—perhaps it is “gone” only I forget.” The Professor went on to say that he must confess to a tender feeling of regret for his “so forlorn” to this very day but he supposed every writer of poems must have his keen regrets for the numerous verses he could recall where he had wrestled with the English language and had lost something of his thought in his struggle with the necessities of art.

We shortly after went to dinner where the talk still continued to turn on art and artists chiefly musical, the divorcement of music and thought; a thinker or man of intellect in listening to music comes to a comprehension of it, Holmes said, mediately, but a musician feels it directly through some gift of which the thinker knows nothing. Longfellow always recalls with intense delight hearing Gounod sing his own music in Rome—his voice was hardly to be mentioned among the fine voices of the world, indeed it was small but his rendering was exquisite. Canvassing T.B. Read’s poems and speaking of Sheridan’s Ride which has been so highly praised—yes said Holmes but there are very poor lines in it, but how often to use scripture phrase there is a fly in the ointment. The talk went bowling off to Peré Hyacinthe. He was very pleasant said Holmes—it was most agreeable to meet him but you could only go a short distance. His desire was to be a good Catholic and ours is of course quite different. It was like speaking loudly through a knot-hole after all.

The dumb waiter bounced up “we cannot call that a dumb said L. but I had an odd dream the other night. I thought Greene (G.W.) came bouncing up on the waiter in that manner and stepped off in a most dignified fashion with a crushed white hat on his head; he said he had just been to drive with a Spanish lady!

Sumner (Charles) came up to the piazza. He had dined elsewhere and came over as soon as possible for a little talk. Holmes talked on although we all said Mr. Sumner here is Mr. Sumner without perceiving that the noble Senator was sitting just outside the cottage window waiting for us to rise and began to converse about him. Longfellow grew nervous and rose to speak with Sumner—still Holmes did not perceive & went on until Jamie relieved us from a tendency to convulsions by voting that we should join the Senator. Then Sumner related the substance of an amusing letter of Cicero’s he had just been reading in which Cicero gives an account to his friend of a visit he had just received from the Emperor Julius Caesar. He had invited Julius to pass a few days with him, but he came quite unexpectedly with a thousand men! Cicero seeing them from afar debated with another friend what he should do with them but at length managed to encamp them. To feed them was a less easy matter. The emperor took everything quite easily however and was very pleasant but adds Cicero he is not the man to whom I should say a second time if you are passing this way give me a call.

A lady (Mrs J. Cabot of Salem) said the other day that Hawthorne wore the air of a banished lord! Nothing ever described him better. Miss Cushman hears that Una is dying.

Manchester. Sumner told Holmes that he heard Lord Jeffrey say he thought Walter Scott a very vulgar man!! And Holmes said he would give us this, one of Sumner’s poor stories, in exchange for a good story Sumner stole from him the day before.


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