From: The Life and Letters of Christopher Pearse Cranch (1917)
Author: Leonora Cranch Scott
Published: Houghton Mifflin Company 1917 Boston


WHEN my father knew that he could not live, he directed me to send, after his death, his published and unpublished works to Mr. George William Curtis. I did this, and Mr. Curtis, although a very busy man, looked carefully into the manuscripts sent to him, having also the assistance and judgment of a collaborateur. He decided that further publication would add nothing to the fame of his friend.

  It was not until some time after that the plan of a volume of letters, connected by his own words from an autobiography, was decided upon, having its inception in his own wish, perhaps, to be better known to that public who already knew something of him through his published volumes and poems in the current literature of the day.

  In this Life and Letters I have tried to give an impression of the man and his charm to his friends, and to show the many sides of his artistic, literary genius. As an æolian harp vibrates to the winds of heaven in melodies, joyful, tender, or sad, so Cranch’s music varied with his mood. Blows it east? It brings forth martial strains. Or south? It sings of the sea, the woods, and the birds. West? Cadenzas of sweet fancy and rollicking mirth play upon its strings. While ‘the north wind brings out clear, philosophic thought, deep and incisive.

  At the instigation of his son-in-law, Colonel H.B. Scott, Mr. Cranch wrote his Autobiography for his “children and grandchildren,—or for any relatives or intimate friends of the family who may wish to know something of the continuous thread of my life.” It was thought best not to publish this as a whole, but to make extracts from it. A man does not see himself at his best; cannot therefore do full justice to himself in an autobiography. His diaries, letters, fleeting poems, tell the tale with a spontaneity free from self-consciousness.

  These extracts from Mr. Cranch’s diaries tell of the days in the ministry; the change from the ministry to the artist life; his marriage, and going to Europe with George William Curtis; then life abroad as an artist; the meeting with men of letters and brother artists; the return home and life in New York and Cambridge; a second trip to Europe, with wife and three children; the Cambridge home and surroundings, philosophical talks in a schoolhouse and Sunday religious meetings; the migrations to New York, and the peaceful end of a most happy life in his own home in Ellery Street, Cambridge.

  There is wound in and out of these annals the continuous thread of the development of his poetical faculty, the strongest voice of many voices that called to him. My father’s letters and those to him from Emerson, Lowell, Curtis, the Brownings, and others speak for themselves. I also quote from a Memoir of Judge Cranch, his father, which he was asked to write,—with the permission of the New England Historic-Genealogical Society.

  Some one has said, “No man is a hero to his valet.” Mr. Cranch was a hero in his own household. To his cook, his grocer, his plumber,—to his children. I remember when we were leaving Paris in 1868, how good old French Elisa, the housemaid or bonne, embraced my father with tears streaming down her cheeks. He was to her, and to us, the embodiment of unselfishness, of patience, of loving kindness, ever living up to his ideals, which were high.

  I have endeavored, even with all my love for my father, to see him as a man, a poet, an artist, as he appeared to the outside world of men and women of his day. If I have done this only partially, I shall be well repaid for my labor.


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