Chapter XIII. Cambridge.

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


THE following is from the Autobiography:—

  When I came to reside in Cambridge, after an interval of close on forty years since I had seen the architectural shades of Harvard, I could hardly get rid of the feeling that I was living in the shadow of authority. It seemed as if some invisible professors were haunting me, and as if—as sometimes in my dreams—I might be called upon at any moment, to explain why I had dodged the recitations, and absented myself from my duties. I felt a great yawning gap in my knowledge of matters, which even the Freshman of to-day should know. I was an ignoramus trespassing on the domain of scholars. In my long years of artist life, the bottom had almost dropped out of my old curriculum. Any schoolboy might stump me on the textbooks. One day a venerable ex-professor invited me to dine. I felt as if I was summoned to a recitation unprepared, and I had the effrontery to tell him so. I was relieved to hear him speak slightingly of one study at least which was thought very essential forty years ago. But now it is amazing to think how much of the superficial life may go on unfettered, untrammeled, in the very shadow of these majesterial buildings. . . .

  The social life of Cambridge is one of the great charms of the place. The heavy work that goes on in the college buildings has no deadening or stiffening effect upon the freedom of movement in general society. The professional centre of pure white light is fringed about with the most liberal play of rainbow colors. There are clubs for light reading, and charades and private theatricals, in which even college professors love to disport. . . .

  There is one element left out in the composition of Cambridge society—that is—the artistic. Cambridge knows little, and cares little, about art. But this is hardly to be expected, for some years to come. And even then, it will perhaps not be, from any spontaneous impulse in all that belongs to a liberal education, but from a sense of duty and an ambition to be “up to the universe.”

Mr. Cranch to O. B. Frothingham

April 15, 1874.
  I have just finished your Life of Theodore Parker, the book presented to me by Mrs. Parker, and therefore all the more prized; and I feel impelled to express to you my thanks among the many readers you cannot fail to have. You have done a great work. I can understand what laborious hours you must have given to have read so thoroughly and condensed and arranged so admirably his manuscript, letters and journals, and in that crooked chirography of his. You have presented the whole to the public with a completeness of portraiture never, I suspect, given before. Your biography is so fresh, too, so juicy and fragrant; combines so well the sympathetic and the critical; eaten so into the very marrow of the man, and shows him to us so vividly in every phase of his career, and every side of his mind and character, and so floats him on the delightful current of your own thought and style, that it seems to me a fascinating book. Of course I don’t deny that a great part of its charm to me may have been in reviving my recollections of Theodore himself, though I saw almost nothing of him after those West Roxbury days. But your book fills out and carries on the picture of him to my mind, and gives me his whole life as I never so well knew it, and makes me realize how great he was, as I never did before. . . .

  On Sunday last what do you suppose I did? I actually preached at the Memorial Hall. My subject was “The New Faith,” in which I took lots of ideas from my New York pastor. I believe it is to be published in next Saturday’s “Commonwealth,” though I had n’t the slightest idea of its being printed when I wrote it. But Mr. Slack pounced upon me with an editorial pistol and I did n’t know what to do but stand and deliver, though I had already stood and delivered it to the whole congregation. I felt that I wanted to have once the satisfaction of saying in the Fraternity pulpit the things I did say, and I had a large and attentive and apparently sympathetic audience.

  Your picture of Parker makes me feel ridiculously small, and thus I have wasted more of my life than I care about remembering. But it’s no use for me to cry about it. I am growing old, but perhaps I may do something yet that may be of some little service to my fellow creatures. But this Theodore Parker haunts me and rebukes my conscience terribly.

To Ralph Waldo Emerson

CAMBRIDGE, April 27, 1874.
  Many years ago our friend Margaret Fuller suggested to Mrs. Cranch that I should send you one of my sketches or pictures, and my wife has not forgotten to remind me often of it. But it was a seconding of an inclination on my part to do so. Will you accept a little landscape that I painted for you this winter, and which will soon reach you? And let it feebly express the lifelong debt of thanks I owe you for all that your works have been to me, ever since your little book “ Nature” first came to me like a sunrise of truth and beauty.

  I take the liberty also of sending you my “Libretto.”1 And I am now, as ever, with the same admiration and affection,

Truly yours,
       C. P. CRANCH.

Ralph Waldo Emerson to Mr. Cranch

CONCORD, May 2, 1874.
  Your double gift of poem and picture came safely to my house and eyes the night before last. The picture, of necessity, drew the first attention, and pleased and pleases all beholders. Mrs. J.M. Forbes, who was here, and who is herself an incessant painter, praised it warmly, and I, who am necessarily a dull critic in art, was glad to be justified in my innocent approbation. My son, a young doctor, who also sketches, and my daughter who draws, fully consented. The book with its dangerous title lies on my table, and waits a prosperous hour. I have always understood that you are the victim of your own various gifts; that all the muses, jealous each of the other, haunt your brain, and I well remember your speech to the frogs, which called out all the eloquence of the inhabitants of the swamp, in what we call Sleepy Hollow in Concord, many years ago.

  We are now in the hardships of the worst spring that I can compare with my remembrances: but I trust it may yet lead us to as fair a summer as its sisters have done, and I trust my wife may be well enough, and you good enough, and I unloaded enough of my slow task, to secure us a visit from you on the best day.

Gratefully yours,
                R. W. EMERSON.

Edward Pope Cranch to Mrs. Brooks

CINCINNATI, May 27, 1874.
  Bertha and Emma came safe and well yesterday, in time for tea. Having not slept much on the journey, they accordingly sat up all night talking; and, I suppose, intended to talk until they fell over in their chairs, which I believe they did do about two o’clock in the morning. At any rate, we certainly did n’t have a very early breakfast to-day. To-night they migrate to Pike’s Opera House to hear the second grand concert of the Harmonic Society, in which is to be performed Liszt’s “Prometheus,” which, being a Pagan myth, I suppose it is not proper to call it an oratorio. It is very Liszt-y indeed, and jerky. The time is full of delicate rests, like walking on tiptoe, or rather an Oriental egg dance—full of peril—as we make narrow escapes sometimes; going it with a sense of vertigo, and wondering how we got there,—the voices being wafted over the chasms by trombones and hautboys. It is perfectly awful. When the society sing it we look like a collection of people having a fit.

  I don’t know what dear Emma will think of the old Harmonic after hearing the Boston Handel and Haydn. I think we are pretty good on a regular trot, like the “Messiah” and “Creation.” We can even keep alongside of that active little roadster, Bach, whose legs move under him so quick. But if you want to see fits of hysterics, you ought to see us in “Prometheus”! It is a perfect nightmare. The Detlingen “Te Deum” and the “Stabat Mater” last night were splendid. We had a great house, and everybody was delighted: I think must very nearly have paid expenses. That Mrs. Smith has such a clear, pure, high soprano, and sings so accurately! Whitney is a magnificent bass. If our Emma had had Mrs. Barry’s part, and Varley had been a natural-born tenor, which he is n’t, and the Cincinnati Orchestra had stopped scratching, the Quartettes would have been perfect.

  . . . Well, just pray for me; thermometer 90°, standing in cloth coat, on the top tier of two hundred singers, whose natural temperature excited by “Prometheus,” and blazing gas, and audience of two thousand down there, and the spiders in the ceiling hatching their eggs prematurely on account of the heat, singing something I don’t know, jostled by nervous elbows, and sympathetically affected by a general fuss—and this at sixty-five, when I ought to be in bed snoring a natural bass to myself like a husband and father. . . . Annie enjoys it though. She is one of the altos. I go for her sake.

Mr. Cranch to his brother Edward

CAMBRIDGE, July 4, 1874.
  The other day Margie sent me your letter to her of May 17, or rather that portion of it describing Lizst’s “Prometheus,” and your experiences in the chorus. I would not have missed that letter for the world. So good is it that it is a shame it should be buried in a portfolio, and I have just committed a bold deed in transcribing some extracts therefrom which I have sent to Dwight for his Musical Journal. They are too good to be lost. I wish I could move your ambition and vanity a little on this score. You ought to write more in this vein, and publish it. You ought to make a collection of your letters and other writings, or let some friend do it, and immortalize yourself, let yourself be set on the pedestal and in the niche that belongs to you, for there are few who have your gift. I have extracted into my manuscript book several pages of your letters, as master-pieces. O that you could be persuaded to write more and publish. You don’t know your own powers. Long, long ago you ought to have chosen literature for your field, or else that in which Nast is making a fame and fortune. But it is n’t too late to do something. I don’t see any falling-off in your genius. You have the spirit of youth, and gifts such as yours should not be buried in napkins. I wish you would send me something for my own delight. I will promise not to publish, if you say so. I feel as if I were losing so much of you, in these long, long years of distance between us. Let Bertha or Emma or Annie hunt up and copy now and then. There must be treasures somewhere. Margie lent me some of your letters to your wife and daughter when at Milan, and I have rich extracts from them.

  This is Independence Day, and the bells are ringing like mad; there never was such a place for bells as Cambridge. It is like Florence or Rome. This morning before sunrise they began it;—this is the noonday peal, and this afternoon and at sunset I suppose there will be more of it, with chimes to boot. But no guns, no cannon, not even a firecracker has been heard, nothing bigger than a torpedo. . . . Many people have left Cambridge. I suppose all the boys are suppressed by law, clapped into barrels, or sent off somewhere. But O these bells! It is a little too much. There is a big Newfoundland dog in the street, who evidently can’t stand it; he is running about barking. Certainly pealing and barking go naturally together. . . .

CAMBRIDGE, November 26, 1874.
  This is Thanksgiving Day and a bright sun is shining in at my study windows, and giving me strong hints that I ought to be thankful for a great many things,—too numerous to mention. One thing I am sure of, that I thank Heaven for you, though I don’t see you in the flesh, and don’t know whether I shall see you or not, on “the other side.” I wish I had your perfect faith in that. One thing, however, I am sure of, and that is that all is and will be for the best, and if it is best, we shall meet there, we shall meet. But it is all a mystery. You modestly count yourself out of the circle of the shining ones. But if your statue were set in the right light, I know many others whom the world applauds who wouldn’t be worthy to hold a candle to you. Do you remember Hawthorne’s story of the “Great Stone Face?” I am reminded of it when I think of you, of all you are and have been, though you have n’t the art of putting your best foot foremost, and early in life contracted that, I suppose hereditary habit, of dodging the crowns of glory that were seeking you out,—and running to hide your light under every bushel measure you could lay hold of in the streets of Cincinnati. If you ever do succeed in getting on the other side of Jordan, in a conscious state of existence, I hope the first thing you will take lessons in,—but you must go to school to some very old and experienced and worldly-wise angel,—will be to take your angel-trumpet and blow it; not vaguely hint that you deserve to have a trumpet, or if you have it, insist upon not playing solos on it, even in your own parlor, but put up with a back seat somewhere in an orchestra! Now, the fact is, that I have learned a little of this worldly wisdom, though, to be sure, rather late in life. Some of that sort of Cranchiness you allude to has been slowly oozing out of me with the gathering of the snows of age upon my old head. Unfortunately it is rather late to tum it to any successful account. I suppose, on the whole, it is of little use now for either of us to try to step forward to the foot-lights and insist upon a solo. Have n’t the audience seen us all along back there alongside the meek bassoons and monotonous kettle-drums? Have n’t they seen me, at least, “trying the stops of various quills,” from the clerical trombone to the secular and artistic flute, and what chance hath such an one, should he announce himself as a singer or an organist? Of such things, if we succeed in getting that free pass to the other land, we will talk one day, not with stooping shoulders and hoary beards over the latter end of a sea-coal fire, hut strolling along the shining streets or out in the meadows of Asphodel, with no debtors after us, no bankrupt court business haunting us, no ridiculous abstracts of time and space to surmount, before we can have our talk. Seriously, to me, all reason, all analogy, all type and correspondence intimates that hoped-for conscious, and if conscious, then social state of being beyond the utter incompleteness of this life. Over and over I have reasoned myself into the belief and have written out my reasons so that it would seem like a tremendous mockery, a lifelong practical joke, altogether out of keeping with my idea of the perfect love and wisdom of the great divine order, this limiting existence, i.e., conscious existence, which is the only existence worth anything, to this little period of life on our speck of a planet. We are something more than coral insects, I take it, put here only to build up our little atom of the great world-reefs for those that come after. There is n’t a greater philosophical humbug than M. Compte’s “Immortality of the Race.”

  I don’t know how I got into this sermonizing strain, I suppose it was your letter, and the morning sun at my windows, and the stillness of Thanksgiving Day that set me going. But when we can talk, let us talk. Why don’t we talk oftener? Hit were as easy to write, as to speak, I suppose we should, only once in a while some harmony of circumstances makes it easy.

  Last night we had a little party, about a dozen. Among our guests were Charles Elliott and wife, our near neighbors, and your friend, Mrs. Sarah Perkins. After tea and chocolate we had quite a jolly evening. Miss Lizzie Boott sang an Italian song and her Pa, Mr. Frank Boott sang two of his own songs, a good pair of Boots, and I sang “Heathen Chinee” and “Chiquita,” and “ Isaac Abbott,” and made the crying baby. After which our friend Brooks gave his inimitable specimens of acting—”Widow Bedott” and the old woman telling the shad story, ending with his celebrated Fourth of July oration.

CAMBRIDGE, February 19, 1875.
  I must tell you of a great pleasure I have had in reading over several bundles of old letters of Father’s and Grandfather Cranch’s. They were sent to me by Richard Greenleaf, in whose possession they have been until now. He wrote me a note saying that I ought to have them. But they don’t belong to me any more than to you. I know you will be glad to read them when you get time,—and if you come on to see me, or if I should come on to see you, we will have that pleasure together. There are several letters of Grandfather Cranch to Grandmother, while he was in Boston, in the Court of Common Pleas,—she being in Braintree,—and a few notes from Father while in college—to grandfather. But the great bulk of the letters are from Father while in Washington, with rough drafts of Grandfather’s answers. These extend from about 1792 to 1811. They open to me many vistas in the family affairs and tell many events I knew nothing about. Everything is so circumstantially detailed that I seem almost to have remembered it. All his plans, his uncertainties, his despondencies, his hopes, his removals from house to house, his purchases and speculations—his farms, his sheep—the politics of the day—under Jefferson’s administration—the fears of Executive interference with the Judiciary-the honors that fell to him—the various ups and downs of health and sickness, the children, the neighbors, etc.; and all so closely written, in the same even, familiar hand we used to know so well Then the relations between him and his parents—so tender and affectionate and deferential—the light too—shed on Grandfather Cranch, brings me for the first time to an acquaintance with this remarkable man. I wish to heaven we had some sort of portrait of him. There was once a pencil drawing of him by father—a mere rough sketch, that I remember having seen. What became of it? Nothing of our Grandmother either. How did it happen they were never painted? When on the Greenleaf side the portraits go back a generation or two farther?

  The letters end abruptly, just before the Hon. Richard Cranch’s death in 1811. Grandmother Cranch, I think, died the same year, and very shortly afterwards. The birth of each child is mentioned in Father’s letters—and sometimes there are little notices of them, as boys and girls. . . .

  I feel now like a person who has read only the first volume of a novel, and knows, or fears the second is lost. I want to follow the fortunes of the family from Washington to Alexandria, and see how I came into the world; and to know some few incidents attending my early childhood. Are there any letters preserved, of this period? or later? Perhaps Margie has some. She is the chief record keeper of the Cranch family. I never knew before that there was a Christopher Cranch before me—I don’t mean the infant of Mother’s that died—but a Christopher in Richard Cranch’s time-in England-one of his cousins. It looked queer to see his signature on those yellow old letters. One of the most interesting letters of Grandfather’s, is one in which he tells of the original Christopher Pearse, for whom I was named. He was our Grandfather’s grandfather and must have been born during Cromwell’s Civil War.

George William Curtis to Mr. Cranch

August 1, 1875.
  My long intention to write to you naturally conquers me to-day, and I pledge you and Lizzie in a deep draught of affection and memory. That it was actually so long ago, that Saturday morning when the Nebraska dropped down the harbor, I, of course, decline to believe. I know only that it was not a more beautiful morning than this, and that we could not have been any younger. For both of us, for all of us, what a rich world and life it has been since that day! The only stain is that you and Lizzie will be Arabs, and that you have never stopped travelling since the summer mom when we cast off at the foot of Wall Street. But I do not lose faith that you will yet return to your native Staten Island!

Mr. Cranch to his brother Edward

CAMBRIDGE, December 5, 1875.
  I received your letter to-day. Sunday is a lucky day for letters I think. There is no carrier, but I go to the P. O. and stand in the queue, and I am generally rewarded for my patience. I am very glad you got my book. I was afraid it miscarried. It is delightful to have such heartfelt praise. What a comfort in this crowded market-world, where our particular hobbies are so shoved aside and knocked down and run over, in the great press and thoroughfare, to have a brother whisper such words of encouragement! Go to! you and I and a very few others will organize a mutual appreciation club and warm each other’s inwards, and quaff deep draughts of the wine of brotherly love in our old age, and the gentle exhilaration thereof, shall be to us instead of the intoxicating fumes of the Cup of Fame! I think I only want to be appreciated—that’s what we all want rather than the world’s fame.

  As to the Libretto for the “Cantata of America,” I dare say I was very rash to consent to do it. I see what may Be done, vaguely see it; but it doesn’t at all shape itself yet to me in a lyric or dramatic form. I have no inspirations as yet. I shall pray for them. I am tolerable at meditative poetry on America, as you may see in my Phi Beta poem, but have n’t got hold yet of a conception for dramatic music.

  There must be a sort of chaos to begin with, like. Haydn’s “Creation” overture. Do you remember Gardiner’s description of it in his “Music of Nature?” Show it to Mr. Singer. Let him make his overture. But it is funny my saying what Mr. Singer ought to do, before I have an idea of my own.

  How would it do to have a wail and lamentation from the Red Men, on their vanishing wigwams and hunting fields, and the encroaching white pioneers? But something grander must precede this. Mystical voices from the old world, predicting the discovery of the new world, and the uprising of a great shining continent beyond the unknown ocean. I shall have to pump at the dry cistern of my wits; perhaps to bore an artesian well, before I touch my Castalian fount. I am frightened to think of it. But if I don’t do it, somebody else will, who can’t do it either. If ever I had to invoke the Muse it is now! Let us pray for favorable conditions. Medium work and spirit manifestations are nothing to this.

  Last night I read an essay on Shakespeare’s Sonnets at Mrs. J. T. Sargent’s in Boston.2 I met there a lady I knew in New York, a musician and writer, who likes my hook immensely. These little sops are sweet under the tongue.

To George William Curtis

CAMBRIDGE, December 26, 1875.
  I was exceedingly glad to hear from Mrs. Curtis’s letter of the 16th, for which please thank her, that you were so much better. I hope nothing has occurred to give you a Hinterschlag, but that you and the beautiful weather have duly agreed with each other, and that you have been able to take your walks, and have gained strength daily. I am anxious to hear again, and hope you or Mrs. Curtis will drop me a line to confirm our hopes. We remembered you at our Christmas dinner yesterday,—only three of us at the table now, you know. . . .

  I have been busy painting several small pictures. . . . I have also done some good poetical work, the best of which I consider ten sonnets addressed to my brother Edward. I write no sonnets now except in the orthodox Italian manner, with the double rhymes. I have taken a studio in Boston for the winter, and shall get into it in the New Year. I shall throw out my nets. There is better fishing in Boston than in Cambridge, which is the the deadest place for art I know.

George William Curtis to Mr. Cranch

WEST NEW BRIGHTON, December 31, 1875.
  Your letter was very welcome and finds me quite well again. The trouble seemed to be an attempt at gastric fever, which our old Doctor D– skilfully baffled. I read your book with my heart as well as with my eyes and mind. It is like you as a photograph is, into which the full likeness does not get, yet which wonderfully reproduces the person. It is full of an inward music for me,—the music of happy memory, none the less happy that by distance it is somewhat shadowy and pensive. I have never ceased to be glad that my first sight and feeling of Italy were with you, who in the true sense are an Italian, and son of the South. My mind constantly reverts to Rome, and Rome in those young days of glory in the past is forever blended with you. I hope, but I do not suppose, that the book “sells.” I do not suppose it because I know how slowly the wares of Parnassus go.

Mr. Cranch to his brother Edward

CAMBRIDGE, February 27, 1876.
  I think the lines I send must end the Cantata. If any more is needed by Mr. Singer, please let me know. The whole thing· seems rather short, but then I know the music has a way of spreading it out over a large surface. If it is only the right thing, a little goes a great way. I am glad that what I have done pleases. I am open to any suggestions of emendation. . . .

  I go to Boston every day to my Studio; but must give it up either by the middle of March or 1st of April. Carrie is there part of the time.

  Did you read my sonnet on “Pennyroyal” in the March “Atlantic”? I wrote it last summer in the country, one Sunday morning lying under an oak-tree. I thought my love of pennyroyal was a specialty of mine and a few others, but it seems the sonnet has brought out half a dozen sympathizers. Only to-day I received the thanks of an old Boston lawyer, and at the same time Howells showed me a letter from a gentleman in West-Newton, with a poem which he had named “Pennyroyal,” till he saw mine; very good, too, it is. I will here transcribe some lines of mine, which will appear in the “Atlantic,” sometime. They are to nobody in particular, but to a sort of Ideal Voice.

All day within me, sweet and clear
The song you sang is ringing.
At night in my half-dreaming ear
I bear you singing, singing.

Ere thought takes up its homespun thread
When early morn is breaking,
Sweet snatches hover round my bead,
And cheer me when awaking.

The sunrise brings the melody
I only half remember:
And summer seems to smile for me,
Although it is December.

Through drifting snow, through dropping rain.
Through gusts of wind, it haunts me:
The tantalizing old refrain
Perplexes, yet enchants me.3

Mr. Cranch to George William Curtis

CAMBRIDGE, January 10, 1877.
  I should have replied before to your kind letter. Mr. Alden has probably told you that he has accepted the poem I sent through you, and has paid me for the lines and illustrations, for which I consider myself in great measure indebted to you. I am much gratified too that you and Mr. Shaw liked my verses in the “Atlantic.” Boott, who is now in Rome, has set to music some of the stanzas, and has sent it to Ditson for publication. . . . You have doubtless heard that Story is a grandpa. But Boott only alludes to this distantly, and tells me nothing about the Maestro.

  We had a glorious concert here last night at Sanders Theatre. . . . Paine’s new Romanza, and Scherzo for piano and ‘cello went off finely. All the Cambridge élite are at these concerts, and a good many Bostonians. I think you haven’t seen the new theatre. It is very beautiful, holds fifteen hundred people, and is well adapted to music. In the Beethoven Trio for piano, violin, and ‘cello, the Andante Cantabile was the most divine thing I have beard for a long time. I saw John Dwight and Lowell and Norton, and other friends of yours at a distance.

  On Monday next is the Annual Dinner of the Harvard Musical Association at Parker’s in Boston, where I shall give my contribution in the shape of some verses, of a light and humorous vein.

  Write and tell me how you have been this cold and snowy winter. I keep Carrie’s sketch of you on my study mantelpiece and look at it every day. It is very like you, and I think, is a masterly sketch rough and unfinished as it is.

John Bigelow to Mr. Cranch

  It seems to be in the order of Providence that I should renew my intercourse with you after a long separation, as the Messenger of Affliction. I have just received a letter from my son giving an account of his shipwreck at Yokohama and of his first two days in that city; his diary and previous letters not having come to hand.

  With his letter is a sort of log kept on the margin of a map in which is registered the distance and course of the ship each day, from New York to the rock on which it split, with a brief entry of any unusual incident. I was shocked to read opposite November 15, the following: “Quincy Cranch fell off the mizzen royal yard and was killed—Ship kept her course.”

  On the tracing of the route opposite the 17th day of November there is the following entry, Death of Cranch 88.56° lat., 18.28° long. Cape of Good Hope.

  This is all, and yet far too much! Doubtless you will have heard, before this, fuller details of this catastrophe. Should my son’s diary, or letters, ever come to hand, I will profit by anything they may contain to answer some of the numerous questions which this meagre record will provoke.

  You will break this intelligence to Mrs. Cranch and your family as you best can. God knows how sincerely I sympathize with you and them.

Mr. Cranch to George William Curtis

CAMBRIDGE, March 19, 1876.
  Your kind letter was received, telling us what we are always sure of, your love and sympathy. Our poor boy, as you may have heard before this, fell from the mizzen royal yards on the 15th of November last. He must have been killed immediately, for he struck the starboard quarter boat, from which he fell into the sea. This is all we know. It must have occurred somewhere near the Cape of Good Hope, as we gather from a letter from Mr. John Bigelow, who had a son on board the Surprise, who sends him his diary, in which Quincy’s death is confirmed. The shock to us all was terrible, made all the more sad, by our utter ignorance of all that had occurred to him on board ship since he sailed on the twenty-fifth of September. The last word we had from him was a postal card off Sandy Hook.

  Lizzie was away at Fishkill when I read the letter from Mr. Tuckerman enclosing the brief extract from the Captain’s letter to Mr. Lyman, partner of A. A. Low & Co. It was on the 8th-my birthday, at five o’clock P.M. as I returned from Boston. Carrie and I held a consultation, and it was thought it would never do for Lizzie to come back alone, so I left Boston in the nine o’clock train that night and waited for the train from Fishkill. It was there, at the station, that she first learned the news. We left that afternoon and returned. Lizzie was ill for several days, but she is now well again, and strong, and full of faith that she will see her boy again. Then he is spared so much struggle and trial in this world. The sharpest bitterness of the blow is becoming gradually less. It is a blessed thing that we have work to engross us. This, and time are the great consolers.

George William Curtis to Mr. Cranch

WEST NEW BRIGHTON, February 21, 1877.
  . . . Life goes with us as usual. Your old avenue is getting well peopled. Mr. Shaw has built three new houses on it during the year and now proposes two more. As I go out to my daily walk, I do not fail to see Lizzie pottering over her plants in the sunshine, and I wonder why you do not come out and join me. Sidney Gay is my only companion, but with you I recall Italy and “golden joys.”

  Politically it has been a most exciting winter, and the end is not until the fourth of March is gone. Luckily I have no kind of official ambition, so my soul is at rest. My Lizzie’s music is a great delight, and for so young a girl, she plays very well.

Mr. Cranch to his brother Edward

CAMBRIDGE, December 30, 1877.
  It does me good to hear from you, after so many months of silence. Don’t give up writing to me; if only a few lines. Let us make this one of our duties and pleasures for the year 1878. Life is short, and thousands of miles and long periods of time between us, but postage is cheap, and a letter now and then is a bright star rising on our darkness. I thank God that you and I only grow old in body, not in soul. We are old boys. Let us hullo to each other still across the mists that are settling around us, and if we can’t see each other we can bear each other’s voices.

  On Christmas Day I was sick in bed with an attack of vertigo, a thing I never had before. (But our good Doctor soon cured me.) We were all invited to dine at Henry James’s; but Lizzie and Carrie went without me. I was at the “Atlantic” dinner, on Whittier’s seventieth birthday, of which, I suppose, you have seen an account. I didn’t get home till near two o’clock, I believe; but then I waited for Mr. Houghton who brought me out in his carriage. I had written a sonnet to Whittier, and sent it to him, and received a pleasant answer from him; but as the sonnet was printed in the “Tribune,” it couldn’t properly be read at the dinner.

  The next evening I was at a party in Boston, at Mr. Eldredge’s-brother-in-law to Story-who was there, the party being for him. It was a big, fashionable party, and though I went late, I was almost the first there, and besides, much to my disgust, had on a pair of shrilly creaking boots, and there was no carpet on the stairs! This was awful. But I said to myself, “I’m an old gentleman, what matters it?” This looks as if I were a society man. But I’m not. I’m almost a hermit.

To Mrs. Scott

CAMBRIDGE, April 5, 1878.
  . . . I am sorry you have the “blues.” Yet you would n’t be a real chip of the old block, if you bad n’t them sometimes. Some bodily and mental temperaments are subject to them, and some are not; and it is hard for the latter to understand the former. I used to be greatly troubled that way, and am sometimes still. Your mother’s temperament is totally different from mine and she never could understand the malady. It is probably one third circumstances, and two thirds inherited temperament, and of course is aggravated by any temporary derangement of bodily health. The only remedy is occupation, and putting ourselves, if possible, into the currents of healthy and joyous influences. It is like the change of the weather. In nine cases out of ten it is as hard to account for the blues as it is for meteorological changes.

  We have been having Sunday afternoon meetings; a little movement got up among some of the liberal people “unchurched” in Cambridge. They are small gatherings of about twenty or more gentlemen and ladies, meeting at each other’s houses, where an essay is read and followed by conversation. They have been very interesting. The first meeting was in our parlor, March 10, where I read aloud the “Immortal Life”; the second, at Mr. Parks’s, where Mr. Beckwith, a young minister, read about “Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces in Thought, and in Society”; the third, at Mrs. Stearns’s, essay by Professor C. C. Everett on “Nature”; the fourth, at our house, essay by Mr. Weiss on “Idealism and Materialism.” Weiss and John Dwight dined with us that day. The conversation was more interesting than usual, much less formal and bookish and stilted than at Mrs. Sargent’s Club. We have had no organization, or name as yet, and I don’t know whether we shall, except the appointment of a Committee, of which I am chairman, to provide readers. Next Sunday, Mr. Sydney H. Morse reads, and the next, Dr. Hedge at his house. I think it would be a good thing for you to try it in Burlington, where, I dare say, there are a good many who don’t go to church, yet feel the need of some spiritual and intellectual communion.

To his brother Edward

  . . . Once they were all up before daylight and started off in a wagon for the prairie, which they saw at sunrise, starting up meadow larks and quail and other birds, in the crisp frosty morning, now and then getting out to walk and warm themselves. Carrie,4 with her artist’s eye and soul, was delighted with the scenery. They were gone three or four days from Burlington. On the way back, C. and N. must needs take a ride on the engine! which, I suppose, is a sort of initiation into real Western life. Some ladies told C. the cow-catcher was even preferable to the engine! They had about twenty minutes of it; it was exciting, but a rough ride. . . .

  If you want to know what I have been doing, I can hardly tell you. Only I am generally busy about something. I try my hand at too many things, I know, but somehow I can’t help it. . . . I send some verses occasionally to some magazine, and I paint pictures. . . . My latest things have been some water-colors, chiefly Venetian subjects, which I shall send to the New York Exhibition for February. I sold two there last year. And these are better. . . .

  Then, translating verse is one of my vanities. I believe I told you I had done the ten Eclogues of Virgil into hexameter, line for line. This was some time ago. I think it is one of the best things I have done. Lately I have been trying my hand at a few of the Odes of Horace. One of them is published in the first number of the New Series of Dwight’s “Journal.” So you see I try “the stops of various quills.” I have enough translations of shorter poems, of the German and Latin chiefly, to make a volume, but there is no demand for such wares. . . .

  But I am running on, and here is the end of my paper. I will hunt up that “Symposium.” I like such reading, too. But sometimes I like to cut loose from all thought on the Problem of Life, which I can never solve and go back to my canvas and brushes, where I can enjoy work and not be obliged to think on these tangled questions.

CAMBRIDGE, May 21, 1879.
  We have just returned from a two months’ visit to New York. We kept house in the Gilders’ rooms. Mr. R. W. Gilder the poet and his wife, Mrs. Helena DeKay Gilder, who is a painter and a friend of Carrie’s, have gone to Europe for a few months, and we stepped into their place, which consists of two big rooms, one of which is a studio, entered through a court and an iron gate which opened, in foreign fashion, by pulling a long wire from within. Our bedrooms were only spaces partitioned off by screens. We had a basement below with a cooking stove, and the Gilders left us their colored girl for cook and waitress. They left all their books and furniture and bric-a-brac adornments. We found butcher and baker and grocer within easy distance, and on the whole were comfortable, and lived cheaply. I managed to paint a little, but having no room to myself, did no writing of any consequence. Carrie was very busy at her classes and Mr. Chase’s instruction at the Artists’ League, and thinks she derived much benefit therefrom.

  We made two visits to Staten Island, and were two weeks up the River to see our relatives in Fishkill. I was within three doors of the Century Club, and they gave me a card of admittance during the time I was in the city. We saw hosts of old friends and acquaintances, heard Frothingham preach, and were at the reception given to him before he left for Europe, which was a great occasion. Many friends wanted us to stay in New York, but it is not the place for us. It is too big, and too noisy. I was homesick for our quiet life in Cambridge, and am very glad to get back again.

  I wish I could hear from you sometimes. But I ought not to complain, for if I, who have so much leisure and the free use of my fingers, am still such a bad correspondent, what must it be for you with your hours crowded with work and your lame wrist?. . .

  I can’t remember when you wrote to me last, or when I wrote to you. I wish, if you can’t write, you would dictate an epistle, or send me a scrap of drawing. Now I come to think of it, you will be actually seventy years old in a few days! And I am creeping along close to your steps. And fate still separates us, and the mystery of life and of the great Future still wraps us about, and we know nothing about the Beyond! And yet I am sure that all will be for the best. Now I think of it, I will send you four sonnets, written last March, on this great theme. But I am inclined to think it best, if we can, to forget all about Death and the Future, and live in the Present. We’ve got to let these things take care of themselves.—What have we got to do with it? If a man by taking thought can’t add one cubit to his stature, neither can he add one day to his life. All we can do is to submit to the Great Ruler of events, and trust and hope. My great creed now is to believe in the Unconscious life, and take counsel of it. And its great lesson is Faith, and not Doubt or Denial. And I trust too that even in this mortal vale we shall meet again, and that before long.

CAMBRIDGE, May 29, 1879.
  I am going to celebrate your birthday by transcribing a poem I have just written,—finished to-day, but I don’t know what to call it.5 It is I think mainly suggested by a very remarkable article which I have been re-reading for the fourth or fifth time, written by a friend of ours, Dr. William James, son of Henry James, senior, and published in the January number, 1878, of the St. Louis “Journal of Speculative Philosophy.” I wish you would look it up and read it. It is a sharp and very able criticism of Herbert Spencer’s “Definition of Mind.” Dr. James is also Professor James, Professor of Philosophy in Harvard,—and promises, I think, to make a great mark as a philosophical writer.

To George William Curtis

July 19, 1879.
  Here we are by the seaside, where we have been for over a week. It is a pretty place, with plenty of trees about us, and bushes, which grow down to the water’s edge. We are within two minutes’ walk to the beach, where wife and daughter religiously plunge nearly every day into the ice-cold water. But I don’t think the bathers, on the whole, are very enthusiastic in their devotions. There are a good many very nice people here, mostly ladies, with the usual sprinkling of young men, married and single, who go about in colored sailor shirts with limp, turn-down collars, and no vests, and young ladies who swing in hammocks and read novels, and a select dozen of whom are artists. We have very small rooms in the Sea View Cottage, and take our meals at the Central House, which is Willow Cottage. Rooms all full. I am in the smallest room, I think, I ever was in, say about eight by twelve feet, including the closet. But have a fine view of the sea from the window. The table is excellent, and the company refined and agreeable. There are pretty bits among the willows, but as to the shore views, I am disappointed. Unfortunately I can’t take my long exploring walks, as I am troubled with a lame rheumatic knee, which seems to get no better. Yesterday morning, while I was painting a group of willows with the sea beyond, three New York artists made me a call as they were taking a walk in search of subjects. . . .

  Our anniversary is fast approaching,and I hope to hear from you as usual on that memorable day. How goes it at Ashfield? Give our love to all, and greet the greenwooded hills for me.

Oliver Wendell Holmes to Mr. Cranch

296 BEACON STREET, December 14, 1879.
  I have thanked you verbally for your presence at our Breakfast, and for the beautiful sonnet which you did me the honor of reading at the table. But I am not satisfied without writing these few lines to say that I most fully appreciate your kindly remembrance which took such a form that I can preserve it among the enduring memorials of what was to me one of the great occasions of my uneventful life.

A fountain in our green New England hills
Sent forth a brook, whose music, as I stood
To listen, laughed and sang through field and wood
With mingled melodies of joyous rills.
Now, following where they led, a river fills
Its channel with a wide calm shining flood
Still murmuring on its banks with changeful mood.
So, Poet, sound thy “stops of various quills,”
Where waves of song, wit, wisdom charm our ears,
As in thy youth, and thoughts and smiles by turns
Are ours, grave, gay, or tender. Time forgets
To freeze thy deepening stream. The stealthy years
But bribe the Muse to bring thee amulets
That guard the soul whose fire of youth still burns.

George William Curtis to Mr. Cranch

April 18, 1880.
  What do I hear of your going away? How can you do such a thing? I have just been reading your beautiful verses in the” Atlantic.” They are very touching and true, but too sad.

  Why should you go away? What have we all done? To-day the spring begins here. It is still, and warm, and blue, and the Forsythia, and Periwinkle, and company, are in full blast. But if you are really going, what is the name of the curse-rigged ship, and when does she sail and whence? I shall be very, very sorry if this story turns out to be true. We are all well, and we all send our love to Lizzie and Carrie and you. Don’t go!

“Grow old along with me,
The best is yet to be!”

1 “Satan.”
2Mr. Cranch was often called upon to speak, or read an essay at the meetings of the Boston Radical Club, generally held at the home, of Mr. and Mrs. John T. Sargent, 17 Chestnut Street. This club had gathered in nearly all the freethinkers of Boston. It was laughed at in New York as too intellectual for human nature’s daily food, and was called a “brainy” club. Many of its members had been Unitarian ministers, who had left the pulpit, as too cramping an atmosphere for their unfettered thought. The New England literary lights gathered here to hear and discuss vital philosophic problems. It was the most advanced club in Boston.
  Mr. John T. Sargent, the founder, had been a Unitarian pastor with a parish in Boston. His loyalty to Theodore Parker cost him his church. He did not hesitate at the call of his inward convictions. He held true to these, notwithstanding the pressure from without. In those days Parker’s grand iconoclastic sermons made him seem, to conservative Unitarians, almost a heretic. To-day all thought, and thus life, is profiting by the courage and single-mindedness of the pioneers in religious thought. Channing, Parker, Emerson, and later, Bartol, Hedge, Cranch, Sargent, and a host of others, helped on this spiritual Renaissance.
  Mr. Cranch once read his poem “The Bird and the Bell” at this club. This poem was a meditation in Rome upon the freedom of the bird contrasted by the bondage of creed, suggested by the ringing of church bells. The discussion which followed was interesting. From a press clipping, at the time, some of those present were: “Rev. Samuel Longfellow, Rev. Charles G. Ames of San Francisco, Bronson Alcott, Mr. John S. Dwight, James Redpath, Rev. Mr. Potter of New Bedford, Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, Mrs. Edward D. Cheney, Mrs. A. M. Diaz, Mrs. Caroline M. Severance, and Mrs. Laura Curtis Dullard of New York.”
  Mr. Cranch made a favorable impression in his reading. To quote from a newspaper clipping: “The reader’s face, voice and manner added very much to the charm of his poem. He is tall and squarely built, with a strong, yet sensitive face, white hair and beard; his manner is pleasing; and there is a certain magnetism about him that placed him at once en rapport with his audience, while his voice is sympathetic and held even those who could not see his face.”
3 The poem is printed slightly altered in Ariel and Caliban and is called “Ione.”
4 Miss Cranch was visiting her sister in the West.
5 “A Word to Philosophers.”

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