[Manchester—Saturday, 18 September 1875]

Saturday. Cold wind but gloriously clear. Bret Harte came in the ½ past 12 train. He came in good health, save a head-ache which ripened as the day went on, but he was bubbling over with fun, full of the most natural and unexpected sallies. He wished to know if I was acquainted with the Co[c]hin China hen. They had one at Cohasset. They had named him [sic] Benventuro (after a certain gay Italian singer of strong self appreciation who came formerly to America). He said this hen’s state of mind on finding a half exploded fire-cracker and his [sic] depressed condition since its explosion was something extraordinary. His description was so vivid that I still see this hen perambulating about the house, first with pride, second with precipitation, fallen into disgrace among his fellows. He said Cohasset was not a place to live in the summer if one wanted sea-breezes. They all came straight from Chicago!! He fancied the place, thinking it an old fishing village, not unlike Yarmouth. Instead of which, they prided themselves upon never having “any of your sea-smells”, and being 6 miles from the doctor, could not be considered a cheerful place to live in with sick children. He said he was surprised to find J.T.F. without a sailor’s jacket and collar. The actors among whom he had been living rather overdid the business. Their collars were wider, their shirts fuller & their trousers more bulgy than those of any real sailors he had ever observed and the manner of hitching up the trousers was entirely peculiar to themselves and to the stage.

We went to call upon the Burlingames. In describing Harrisburg Virginia where he had lectured he said a committee man came to invite him to take a walk and he was so afflicted with headache that he was ready to take or give away his life at any moment so he accepted the invitation and walked out with him. The man observed that Harrisburg was a very healthy place; only one man a day died in that vicinity. Ah! said Harte remembering the dangerous state of his own mind—“Has that man died yet today?” The man shook his head gravely never suspecting a joke and said he didn’t know but he would try to find out. Whereat Harte to keep up the joke said he wished he would. He went to the lecture forgetting all about it and saw this man hanging round without getting a chance to speak. The next morning very early he managed to get opportunity to speak to him. “I couldn’t find out exactly about that man, yesterday” he said. “What man,” said H. “Why the one we were speaking of, the Coroner said he couldnt say precisely who it was, but the one man would average all right.”

Harte said in speaking of Longfellow that no one had yet over praised him. The delicate quality of humor, the exquisite fineness in the choice of words, the breadth and sweetness of his nature were something he would hardly help worshipping. One day after a dinner at Mr. Lowell’s he said I think I will not have a carriage to return to town. I will walk down to the square. I will walk with you said Longfellow. When they arrived at his gate he said he was so beautiful that he could only think of the light and whiteness of the moon and if he had stayed a moment longer he should have put his arms round him and made a fool of himself then and there. Whereat he said good-night abruptly and turned away.

He brought his novel and play with him which are just now finished, for us to read. He has evidently enjoyed the play and he enjoys the fame and the money they both bring him.

He is a dramatic loveable creature with his blue silk pocket-handkerchief and red dressing slippers and his quick feelings. I could hate the man who could help loving him—or the woman either.


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