[Manchester—Sunday, 26 July 1874]

Sunday August [sic] 26. There were 12 gentlemen at the Saty Club yesterday. When Jamie appeared with his little handbag significant of having come from the country for the purpose—dear Emerson said glancing at the bag, “good boy! good boy!”

Em1, J.2, Lowell3 for the first times since his return, Henry James4, Hunt5, Judge Hoar6, Parkman7, Asa Gray8, Dwight9, Dana10, Holmes11,—the 12th I cannot recall, perhaps J. did not tell me. He sat between Emerson & H. James, Lowell the other side of Emerson. Longfellow was absent. Lowell seems to have returned more like an irregular bit of granite which is suited no where save in itself and by itself, than ever. What have you to tell me of Matthew Arnold, Emerson said. “I never go after anybody said L. I did not see Matthew Arnold.” Yes! but he is one of the men one wishes not to lose sight of said Emerson. “Arnold has written a few good essays, replied Lowell, but his talk about Homer is all nonsense!” “No, no, no!! said E. It is good every word of it!”

These two men went together to hear Renan. They spoke of the beautiful perfection of the Hebrew phrases which he wrote upon the black board. The letters and script were faultless. “But, said Lowell, it was a good lesson to me to see how for 3 minutes of thought could be made to cover an hour of rhetoric. Indeed it is nonsense to attempt to present a thoughtful lecture in an attractive manner.” (Sour grapes I fear Mr. Lowell) “To instruct students and animate them by the fires of rhetoric at the same time is nonsense.” Emerson said, He could not understand Renan (the French I presume he meant) so he looked at Lowell who wore a very wise expression, instead.

There was some talk of Taine and of the inadequacy of his judgments of his greatest themes—indeed said J. with all deference I would suggest that Mr. Taine has never read many of the authors of whom he speaks. “I always said that of him” said Lowell, “I believe I could trace the matter out too, if I would take the time to refer to the British Quarterly and a few other sources.” Parkman said to Lowell, and a more strange evidence of lapse of tact could hardly be discovered, Lowell what did you mean by “The land of broken promise”—Emerson catching at this last said “What is this about The land of broken promise?”—clearly showing he had never read Lowells Ode upon the death of Agassiz—whereat Lowell answered not at all but dropped his eyes and silence succeeded although Parkman made some kind of futile attempt to struggle out of it. Emerson said “We have met two great losses in our Club since you were last here—Agassiz and Sumner.” “Yes, said Lowell, but a greater than either was that of a man I could never make you believe in as I did, Hawthorne.” This ungracious speech silenced even Emerson, whose warm hospitality to the thought and speech of others is usually unending.

Hunt came to Jamie when the afternoon was nearly ended, and asked him to go up to his studio. As they went along he said, “I’ve made a poem! First time I ever wrote anything in my life. ’Tisnt long, only four lines but I’ve got it written down.” Whereat then and there, he pulled out his pocket book and read—

“Boston is a hilly place

People all are brothers-in-law

If you or I want something done

They treat us then like mothers-in-law.”

“This goes to the tune of Yankee Doodle” whereat he sang it out on the public highway. He looked very handsome, was beautifully dressed in brown velvet with a gold chain about his neck but swore like a trooper and was in one of his most lawless moods. He gave J. for me a photograph of a marvellous picture which he calls his Persian Sybil Analita. I see his wife in it as in so many of his best works. “I don’t mean to do any more portraits he said. When I remember how I have wasted time on an eyebrow because somebody’s 14th cousin thought it ought to turn up a little more—it makes me mad!!”

National Endowment for the Humanities - Logo

Editorial work on The Brownings’ Correspondence is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This website was last updated on 7-18-2024.

Copyright © 2024 Wedgestone Press. All rights reserved.

Back To Top