Chapter XV. Cambridge Study—Last Years.

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


MY father was much affected by what we call atmosphere. He had the sensitive, poetic temperament in an unusual degree.

  He was seen to best advantage in his Cambridge study, which also did duty as a studio. Here, with soft-tinted walls, an open Franklin grate for cheer, his armchair at a convenient angle, his favorite books near, and most suggestive studies from Nature, a portrait of his friend, William Wetmore Story, by May, and his own copy of one of Ziem’s Venices, on the walls, studies from the Forest of Fontainebleau, the little Mont Blanc sunrise that was poetical, and photographs of his dear ones on the mantel—he was in his best element.

  Quoting from a short poem called “My Studio” he expresses his pleasure in its quiet and seclusion:—

“I love it, yet I hardly can tell why-
My studio with its window to the sky,
Far above the noises of the street,
The rumbling carts, the ceaseless tramp of feet;
A privacy secure from idle crowds,
And public only to the flying clouds.”

  The study in Ellery Street was a square room, with one large window to the north, the floor covered by a carpet of brown tint and simple pattern; an old-fashioned sofa and deep armchair, with square centre table, for his papers, pen and ink. An old mahogany bookcase with diamond-shaped glass panes, and deep cupboards .below, held his books and manuscripts; an easel or two, with two palettes of his younger days, a guitar and a flute, some pipes and a tobacco-jar, completed the outfit.

  There was an air of serenity and repose about the room. Here he was most at home, and read, in a rapt, musical voice, to his wife, daughter, or friend, his last poem, essay, or comic rhyme. My father was always to me a friend. There was between us such close and entire sympathy that it was hardly necessary to speak; by some subtle harmony of thought and feeling, each divined what cold words might only half reveal.

  He was singularly unworldly and childlike in disposition. His generous impulses would carry him away, and make him give to those who called forth his compassion what he could ill spare himself. My mother and I would sometimes reprove him for those unsophisticated ways. He always accepted the rebuke very mildly, showing how truly sweet and gentle his nature was.

  As I revered my father, it has seemed to me strange, in after life, that I could criticise his lines or make suggestions upon themes that were so much deeper than I could fathom. He invited criticism, noting and taking in good part an opinion, though opposed to his own.

  He had his moods. These were happy moods and dull moods. We speak of being in a “brown study.” Is there not such a thing as a sky-blue study, a golden mood, a russet thought? With the high-strung nature of the poet, there are moods that are both ambrosia and nectar to him. These states of feeling and thought are his greatest inspirations. His best poems are written under such conditions, in his half-waking dreams, perhaps. My father’s best work was done in these bright moods. While the fit was on, he used his brush rapidly. The glow would sometimes last several days. To such natures there come also the corresponding depression and sinking of spirits. It seems as if the soul must sometimes put on sackcloth and ashes. He had many causes for this depression in later life, yet he averred his “blues” were constitutional; two thirds physical, one part mental.

  At such times music was his comforter. If one were to turn to the piano and play the opening chords of Mozart’s Sonata in C major, or the “Adelaïde” of Beethoven, or other of his favorites, he would take up his flute, play part of the air through, and end by letting out his voice to its full compass. Then, the dull clouds would break, the dark mists and vapors enveloping brain and heart would disperse, leaving only pure sunshine and clear skies.

  To many persons, my father seemed cold and unsympathetic, because they only saw him in his dull moods. He was undoubtedly reserved. It is the protection which shy natures sheathe themselves with, of which Emerson says: “Bashfulness and apathy are a tough husk in which a delicate organization is protected.” Shrinking and modest as a woman, he had undoubtedly a most virile mind. With congenial spirits he was unreserved, genial, sympathetic, to a great degree. Into his study came, from time to time, his friends: John Dwight, of musical renown; Dr. Frederick Hedge, Mr. John Holmes, Mr. Frank Boott, Dr. William James, Mr. Samuel Longfellow, Mr. Beckwith, a professor of literature; Mr. Allen, a minister, and Mr. Stevens, his friend and neighbor; John Knowles Paine, composer and musician; and women—a few.

  He wrote on a scrap of paper, on his knee, seated in an old easy-chair, with a pipe in his mouth, looking like a prophet of the olden time, with his white hair and beard—his gaze far away.

  He had no well-sorted library. He was too much on the wing and too unselfish to collect what he really wanted. Late in life he expressed a wish for all the poets, and his family were supplying this want.

  A pocket edition of Shakespeare of good print, I remember, he often carried with him. “A Collection of English Songs” of early date was prized by all the family. Volumes of some of his friends, with autograph signatures, are carefully preserved by his family. Numerous French books, an old Beaumont and Fletcher, and books running over a wide range of subjects, were gathered from his travels. Many of Carlyle’s, and the “Emerson Carlyle Correspondence,” Henry James Senior’s books, Dr. James’s “Psychology,” were on his shelves. Books scientific, theological, he read and enjoyed. His mind, early trained to philosophical discussion, kept pace with the thought and higher criticism of the day. But it was very far from a complete library.

  My father’s memory was good. He quoted whole pages of Shakespeare, Emerson, the “Biglow Papers,” and read aloud very well. He often read to us after dinner in the parlor, while we sewed by the lamp. But he would retire to his study with a pipe, to pursue some line of thought, or finish his special reading. At such times we did not disturb him.

  His nature was generally serene, except deep moods of melancholy that grew as he grew older. He had a great sense of humor, which gave his friends, as well as himself, much pleasure.

  His study was certainly a most individual room, where he was most at home, in his own domain, among books, pictures, and his beloved pipes.

William James to Mr. Cranch

CAMBRIDGE, May 7, 1883.
  I naturally find myself pleased and flattered enough by such appreciation as your note expresses. The contents of the address was after all nothing but rather a complicated way of stating the attitude of common sense, that by philosophers much-despised entity. It may be that much of my intellectual nisus is toward the reinstatement of common sense to its rights; at any rate, I find myself constantly taking sides with it, against more pretentious ways of formulating things.

  I should much like to talk over these matters sometimes with you, and meanwhile I feel singularly encouraged by your generous words. . . .

George William Curtis to Mr. Cranch

May 27, 1883.
  Your beautiful little verses are full of music and picture—and youth. How far away it seems but how fresh, how fair I When you speak of threescore and ten, and I remember how steadily and with equal pace I follow you, I cannot comprehend it, so much do I feel myself to be the same old boy.

  Have you seen the sad, wasted, dying face of Keats in the current “Century”? It is much the same as that published in the “Correspondence with Fanny Brawne”—a cruel book which, like the letters of Mrs. Carlyle, make a man ask if nothing is to be sacred in privacy or human relations. How little the pathetic head has in common with his rich and abounding strain! What a life! What a death! Yet I recall perfectly the peace of that bright Roman morning when we stood by his grave, the morning which dawns again in your pensive lines, and which will always shine over his grave.

To G.W.C.

Long, long ago, in the sweet Roman spring,
Through the bright morning air we slowly strolled,
And in the blue heaven heard the skylarks sing
Above the ruins old.

Beyond the Forum’s crumbling grass-grown piles,
Through high-walled lanes o’erhung with blossoms white
That opened on the far Campagna’s miles
Of verdure and of light:—

Till by the grave of Keats we stood, and found
A rose—a single rose left blooming there,
Making more sacred still that hallowed ground,
And that enchanted air.

A single rose, whose fading petals drooped,
And seemed to wait for us to gather them.
So, kneeling on the humble mound, we stooped
And plucked it from its stem.

One rose, and nothing more. We shared its leaves
Between us, as we shared the thoughts of one
Called from the field before his unripe sheaves
Could feel the harvest sun.

That rose’s fragrance is forever fled
For us, dear friend- but not the Poet’s lay.
He is the rose—deathless among the dead,
Whose perfume lives to-day.

May 7, 1883.

Mr. Cranch to John S. Dwight

CAMBRIDGE, May 13, 1883.
  I greet you on your arrival with me at the Scriptural age of threescore and ten—you my junior by two months. Can you believe it—we have known each other fifty years! The whirligig of time with its ceaseless revolution and changes, absences from each other, differences of occupation, and so on—has not, I think, worn away in the least our old friendship. We were drawn together from the first by intellectual sympathies, by our studies in the Divinity School; by our tendencies toward freer, fresher, more ideal views of literature and life; in aspirations of the true, the good and the beautiful; and not least, by our common love of music. We were youths then—are we older now? Wiser, let us hope—but both young at the core of our hearts.
CAMBRIDGE, May 15, 1883.
  Do you remember how mortified poor Mark Twain was about that unfortunate speech of his at the “Atlantic Monthly” dinner? Well-I am just as mortified about the speech I didn’t make, but should have made, last night in response to your friendly notice of me. Ah, woe is me! I could not heave my heart into my tongue. There were so many strange faces, and I was unprepared, not thinking there was to be any speech-making. To you they were all well known—and your felicitous speech showed what an advantage that gave you over me. Still, as your guest, and old friend, I might have responded, even if I did so in a bungling way, which would probably have been the case. Ah—there is no gift I so envy at such times as the gift of speech. After the occasion goes by, how often I think of things I should like to have said. I have nothing but the espirit d’escalier. Therefore my mortification is twofold.

  First, that I did not appear in a better light to the company—and

  Second—that I could not transform the public gathering into an informal meeting of sympathetic friends, and say to you—in their presence what I should like to have said.

  So you have it—vanity, diffidence—sensitiveness before strangers, and the misery of not having presence of mind enough and natural gift enough, for the right sort of speech—all these so reacted upon me, that it was long before I could sleep.

  A strange thought came into my head that in some future state of existence Time may be abolished; and the now and then not be so disjoined that they can’t be woven—as warp and woof into one act representative of our best moments—as I can take up my picture and work on it, correcting it and changing it as I like.

  The complex state of mind I here make confession of, was only internal discord—after hearing such good music, and having such a good social time.

Edward P. Cranch to his brother

CINCINNATI, September 2, 1883.
  . . . I have on hand at the Pottery a quart jug, on which I have traced some of your juvenile depravities in art, which you have probably forgotten, just to make you laugh. I wish I could fill it with some of Father’s old Madeira, in which Dr. Dick used to make us take Peruvian Bark, in the merry days when we were young on the banks of the blue Potomac.

  But I have laughed all my life over these foolish devils. I have quite a collection of them. No wine could make them better. . . .

Mr. Cranch to his brother Edward

CAMBRIDGE, September 9, 1883.
  And yesterday came the box, safely containing your two beautiful pieces of pottery. Mine very quaint and pretty, and of a good color, with those foolish, half-forgotten scraps on it,” juvenile depravities in art,” you may well call them; and your hornet, and the dog trying to scratch himself. And Carrie’s cologne jug which is rich and beautiful.

  Well! as I can’t see you with the bodily eyes, and don’t know when I shall, I rejoice all the more to have these few lines from you, your brotherly affection, and these gifts, the work of your own brain and hand. . . . We had a pleasant five weeks sojourn at Newport; saw a good many old friends and made some new acquaintances. . . . We found ourselves involved in a web of social responsibilities, with much expenditure of visiting cards and general attention to our toilets, the longer we stayed there. Everybody there appears rich. The wealth and display seem enormous. Fashion, of course, reigns triumphant, but we kept clear of that. Sam. Coleman, the artist, has established himself there and has built . . . a gem of a house, the most beautiful and artistic in its interior decoration of anything I ever saw. He has a royal studio in it, of course. But I can’t begin to describe his house; it is a touch beyond anything in the country, and the decorative designs are all his own. . . .

  What you say of my Emerson article tickles my vanity. But your love adds a precious seeing to your eye. I wish I could think it as good as it seems to you. . . .

George William Curtis to Mrs. Cranch

October 29, 1883.
  Your note and its enclosure are most welcome and I thank you with all my heart. The photograph1 shows—bating color, of which, of course, there is no hint- one of the finest portraits that I ever saw. It is permeated through and through with the subject, his aspect, his air, his movement, his individuality—so that Anna and Lizzie cannot believe that it is not directly from life. It is the most satisfactory and charming work, and Carrie ought to have all the highest honors of the Academy. Give her my love and thanks, which are not academic honors!

  Ah, yes! dear Posthumus, which is Latin for Pearse, we are all going down the hill, but on its warm and I hope, long, western slope. Next summer we must somehow get together while some of our faculties yet remain and mumble ancient memories together.

Mr. Cranch to Mrs. Brooks

CAMBRIDGE, January 31, 1881.
  I have been remarkably well this winter—only a slight touch of lumbago some weeks ago. I walk a good deal, do the marketing, cut wood, bring up my coal and make my own fire every day, and on the whole I am about as lively as an old gentleman of my age can expect to be.

  Last Saturday I lectured in Boston to the young ladies’ Saturday Morning Club, on the “Sonnets of Shakespeare.” . . . I have also dined with the Harvard Musical Association at their annual dinner, John Dwight presiding. Dwight’s portrait, which has been purchased for the Association by subscription, was unveiled on this occasion. I was called on for a speech and forgot to allude to the portrait; but made up for it by reading a couple of sonnets on “Music” and “Poetry.” Carrie’s health was proposed and drunk, all the guests standing. She has been greatly complimented about this portrait; I think it as good as mine. . . .

  Mr. Cranch says in a letter to Mrs. Scott, December 16, 1884: “To-night I am to read the part of Bottom at the Shakespeare Club. The meeting is at Dr. Asa Gray’s. I shall take great pleasure in doing it, and shall make a hit and show them how the part should be done. . . . I have just discovered a young poet here, who addressed an excellent sonnet to me, and is one of my admirers. He seems a very intelligent and gentlemanly young man and is taking a course of literature under Professor Child.”

Beholding thee, O poet; one mild night
Beside thy casement, where the autumn rain
In sadness whispered to thee through the pane,
Mourning the death of days of calm delight,
I marvelled what sweet song thou didst indite
To art or nature, in what lofty strain
Thou didst invoke old myths, what fine refrain
Trembled upon thy lips as poised for flight.

Whate’er the poems,—joyous as the Mom
That treads, bright-sandalled, on the hills of earth,
Grave as the nunlike Eve with brow forlorn,
And lips unblessed by any smile of mirth,
Within my heart that hour this wish was born,
That mine had been the brain that gave it birth!

Clinton Scollard.

Mr. Cranch to Rev. Charles T. Brooks

October 29, 1882.
  Great is the power of circumstance. Time and space stand between old friends, strong almost as death itself. You and I have been divided for a lifetime, and yet there are memories that often bring you to my thoughts,—not to speak of our old Divinity School companionship. What brings you very near to me is, that you were the most appreciative admirer of my “Satan,” a little book that, though well spoken of by the press at the time of publication, literally fell dead in the public estimation, and was absolutely without a sale. But I can’t help thinking it was in some respects, as you intimated in your kind and flattering notice in the “Boston Advertiser,” my best poem. Now, as I have in petto a project of putting out ere long another volume of poems, I wish to give this one another chance. And I have been re-writing or rather correcting and filling it out, having interwoven in places where it was needed, several lyrics and choruses, which give it more completeness; and I can’t help flattering myself that I have greatly improved it. But the name has been objected to. The critics said it is a “calamitous title.” I as yet have not been able to hit upon a better. I wish I could, and I wish you could help me. How hard it is sometimes to baptize the progeny of our brains! You with your fine scholarship may be able to hit upon a name for me. Do think it over, and give me some suggestions. What do you think of “Ormuzd and Ahriman”? It must be some name suggestive of the conflict between good and evil. . . .

To Oliver Wendell Holmes

CAMBRIDGE, February 2, 1885.
  I meant ere this to have either written to you or called upon you, to say how much I have enjoyed your “Life of Emerson.” I am delighted at your just and cordial appreciation of him. For one, as you know, I have been from the first among his enthusiastic admirers, and can well remember how, for years I felt a call to defend him against the Philistines. The “Divinity School Address” was of course the greatest rock thrown into the theological current, dividing the conservatives from the so-called transcendentalist movement. And we all know how long the two streams ran and tumbled and frothed divergently. And some of us are old enough to note how different their later blending and confluence is, from those days of turbulent division.

  When I remember the impression this great prose lyric of the “New Views” made on some of the leading theologians of the liberal faith . . . and then call to mind the quiet evening, a few years since, when I heard Emerson read an essay at Dr. C. C. Everett’s house, being especially invited by the Dean to meet the Divinity students,—I feel that I have lived from the beginning to the end of a wonderful revolution in thought.

  You have treated your subject with great skill, brilliancy and justice. Others have doubtless said this before, but it is a satisfaction to me to add my humble testimony to the distinguished merits of your book, for which, and for the exceeding pleasure I have had in reading it, I must again thank you.

To his brother Edward

CAMBRIDGE, March 3, 1885.
  . . . How do you feel about Inauguration Day tomorrow? I have never said a word to you on politics since Cleveland’s election.—I heard that you went for Blaine much to my regret. The country was saved from a great danger when he was set aside, but it was a close contest. Blaine would have perpetuated, nobody knows how long, the old wretched spoils system—the curse of our country—and put back Civil Service Reform, and would have given a sanction to all the rottenness and corruption which the foes of this reform are answerable for. I am sure that now the country has a safe leader. I don’t care if he has the name Democrat. . . . Cleveland will at least give us a clean government. One of the best signs of it is that all the tag-rag of the Democratic Party join the deposed spoils-system men in howling at his heels. There will be a tremendous pressure upon him as of upper and nether millstones, and they will try to grind him to powder, and in more ways than one he will be in imminent danger from the Bourbons. But I think he will be a match for them all. He will be besieged and squeezed worse than any President ever was. . . . but enough of politics.

  A friend, by the way, gave us season tickets for the Boston concerts which we consider a great boon. At the last concert they gave the Seventh Symphony of Beethoven. I never heard it so splendidly rendered. Gericke is the best conductor we have ever had.

  I think I never enjoyed Beethoven more intensely than last Saturday night. I had forgotten this symphony was so wonderfully great. It suggested such forms of beauty and of life—of deep, grand sadness and exuberant joy—all the vicissitudes and abrupt transitions of life—all its melancholy, its effort, its triumph. The wonderful and original and masterly working up of its simple themes is heart-stirring. It is as if Shakespeare and Milton and Dante were melted into one. There is deep under deep of mysterious beauty, of feeling beyond the power of words—”Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.”

  Have you seen any of the newspaper controversy about Margaret Fuller? All occasioned by the publication of Hawthorne’s Life by his son, who was rash and foolish enough to publish parts of his father’s diary in which this noble woman is vilified. Mr. Julian Hawthorne undertook the defense of his father’s judgment of her in the papers, and followed it up with unnecessary animosity. Among other respondents I wrote for the “Boston Transcript” twice in Margaret’s defence, and Lizzie added a short cracker of her own. Emelyn Story has written a letter full of amazed indignation. I think by this time young Hawthorne has his quietus, for he sees that public opinion is against him. Last night I was at a meeting of a Cambridge Club where Colonel T. W. Higginson gave an admirable lecture on her life, and Rev. Dr. Hedge added some reminiscences of his own. . . .

CAMBRIDGE, March 29, 1885.
  Going to the post-office this Sunday morning through the snowdrifts, I was charmed by getting your good long letter. Your transition from the weather to politics amused me. I think this is the first time we ever disagreed about anything, and if it were now before the presidential election instead of long after, I might be tempted to write a voluminous epistle on this subject. I think you must have read only on one side during the campaign. I could have sent you no end of testimony against the demoralized Republican Party, but especially against their corrupt candidate. We may be trying an experiment in putting in a Democrat, but it was high time there should be a change. On one question, at any rate, that of Civil Service Reform, we have taken it out of the hands of leaders who were wedded to the old spoils system. Much as I disliked the Democratic Party, I could see that the Republican Party had forgotten its own splendid past record, and had declined upon a lower range of principle. . . . It was something quite other than party predominance that the country needed. Could a new party have been formed, it would have been what we wanted; but the time was not ripe for it. . . .

  But I won’t write any more on politics. Cleveland is in, and starts with a fair record. . . . If Cleveland lives he will do a noble work for the purity of the Civil Service. And I don’t see why in most other matters of political importance, he will not come up to the mark along with the best of our Presidents. The old Democratic issues are dead. We could not revive them if we would, and it is idle to let ourselves be haunted by their ghosts.

WASHINGTON, March 4, 1886.
  . . . This great city of Washington. I was not prepared for such an immense evolution. I had heard of its transformation into a beautiful city, but it is much beyond anything I imagined; and the extent of it,—the immense area which I remember as field and common and slashes,—all built up with fine houses and superb asphalt pavements, and churches and public buildings, reaching in every direction as far as one can see, with monuments and statues and parks! I wander about in a state of amazement which only increases every day. I think I am the original Rip Van Winkle. One afternoon I made a pilgrimage to find the old house on Capitol Hill. The buildings were so thick about it, and the ground had been so graded away, that I was uncertain at first whether it was the identical old place. But finally felt sure. I rang at the door, and asked if Judge Cranch did not live there once. They didn’t know, but said the house was very old and used to be called the Whitney House. But as soon as I peeped in and saw the entry and rooms, I knew I was not mistaken. It was occupied as a boarding-house, and the· old garden is turned into a marble yard. The neighboring houses, where the Diggs, the Watkins, and the Brents lived, still stood, but looking very forlorn. I wrote to Margie to know where the house was in which Father died, and she tells me it does not exist; it was near the old Carroll place, but a Catholic institution has been built on the site of it. I never saw that house, for we were then in Europe, but it was there that Rufus and Sister Lizzie also died.

  Just below the Capitol Pennsylvania Avenue looks unchanged. There are the same little houses and tobacco-shops and drinking-houses, and general rowdy aspect; but everywhere else, Washington, compared to what it was when we were boys, is the evolution of the ape into the man. . . .

  I have not been in Washington before since 1868.

To Mrs. Scott

CAMBRIDGE, November 13, 1886.
  . . . I have had very pleasant occupation this summer and fall in correcting and revising the proofs of my new volume of poems, which will be published this month. . . . I look upon my new poems as the best and maturest work I have done in verse. And I live in hope to see some justice done to that work by the critics, and a more popular reception by the public. My “Satan” goes into my new volume much enlarged and improved, and under the new title “Ormuzd and Ahriman.” I have hopes it will command more attention than it has under the old name.

  We had a great day in Cambridge last Monday2—you will have seen the accounts in the papers—at Sanders Theatre, where Mr. Lowell delivered his fine address, and Dr. Holmes his poem. The seats reserved for ladies had all been long taken, so Mamma and Carrie had no chance. But I went in, with my Divinity School badge, walking in the procession and finding an excellent seat. Lowell’s address was very fine; Holmes’s poem was a failure. Both are to appear, I hear, in the next” Atlantic Monthly.”

  The President was received with immense enthusiasm. I had a good view of him, though not very near. . . .

George William Curtis to Mr. Cranch

December 2, 1886.
  I was in town last night, and this morning I came home and found your new book upon my table. It is the first day of winter, clear, cold,—an icy gale blowing without, and I sit by the bright fire within turning the page and reading and musing, your songs leading me on—
“Their echo will not pass away
I hear you singing, singing.”

  That poem holds me with the spell of the Lorelei. One such song proves the singer.

  Then how beautiful and tender are the sonnets. In your first slight volume which I have, I remember also the sonnets and how they enchanted me. But this last sheaf has your golden grain, and I shall say so aloud. It is curious that the same mail brought me a copy of the autobiographic sketches to 1850 of Georgiana Bruce, whom you must remember at Brook Farm, and in the Brook Farm chapters there is mention of you as I remember you when I first saw you with your guitar at the Eyrie, singing old songs. . . .

Francis Boott to Mr. Cranch

February 19, 1887.
  I received your letter not long since of 18th January, and also your Xmas present: your new volume of poems, which I have read with a great deal of pleasure, and have shared this too with others. Among these is Miss Woolson, who was attracted by your song of the “Brown Eyes,”3 having known but little of your writings. She has lately returned your volume I lent her, and I take pleasure in enclosing her note. O si sic omnes! you’ll say.

  Certainly, as you say, Stedman owes you amends, and he seems tardy in making it (or them). A critic ought never to be blamed if he follows his own judgment; but if, as it appears, the omission comes from carelessness or forgetfulness, he can’t make too much haste in trying his remedies. I fancy it is with him as you say—he echoes the voice of the world, and ignores the public duty of the critic and what should be his supreme pleasure, viz., discovering the unseen gems and hidden flowers, and telling the stupid world what it ought to admire.

  Thanks from both of us for your congratulations. Lizzie has really got a splendid baby, and you may take my word for it, for I am not specially a baby-fancier. . . .

Constance Fenimore Woolson to Mr. Boott

  . . . Cranch’s poems I have greatly enjoyed. I admire all; but I have a particular admiration for Ariel’s song—”I have built me a magical ship”—in “Ariel and Caliban.” And for the first and second sonnets—”The Summer goes”—and “Parted by time and space.” I had already seen “Old and Young”—which was sent to me from the United States, marked, some time ago. “In Venice” is an exquisite picture of the most exquisite city in the world, and would give me a heart-ache if I were reading it in America instead of here. But very American, and very beautiful, are the two sonnets, “August” and “Idle Hours,” and they, in their tum, made me a little homesick for the home-scenes described so truthfully and sweetly. Last of all comes “A Poet’s Soliloquy,” which is touching and beautiful in a supreme degree.

Mr. Cranch to Miss Dixwell

April 10, 1888.
  Your letter just received telling me the sad news of Mrs. Duveneck’s death, has been a great shock to me. It will take me long to realize it, so totally unexpected is it, and so ignorant am I of any of the attending circumstances; and to her husband, and to her father, what a blow! Mrs. Cranch feels it just as I do, and we hardly dare communicate the sad intelligence to our daughter, who knew and loved her so well.

  I knew Lizzie when she was almost an infant, in Florence and in Paris, and I have known for many years how completely bound up in the life of her father she was. He is one of my oldest and truest friends – and under this strange and sudden visitation of calamity no words I can utter can give any idea of what I feel for him. Life can never be to him what it has been, for his future pathway in this world will be darkened by a shadow that will never be lifted from his heart.

  How useless are words in speaking of such a bereavement!

  She, as we all know, was so good and so gracious—so accomplished and so full of talent, and so true an artist. How hard that her brilliant career should be so brief. How hard that so few years should have been allotted for her married and maternal life,—and how her many friends will miss her!

  If there be recognition of friends in the after-life – as there must be—else the whole order of creation is a mockery—then are she and your dear sister Anna, whose death I deeply felt—forever united—as they were on earth. . . .

To his brother Edward

NEW YORK, October 28, 1888.
  I send you the flute duet, a little trifle, done many years ago; and also a variation made a long, long time ago, when my flute was in a livelier condition. I have a portfolio full of little things I have tried to compose at times; some merely airs; and some, songs with words, and attempts at harmonization of the same. If ever I get out West, I will bring some of them, and let Emma pronounce whether they are worth anything or not. But one thing I am sure of, that if I had been taught the piano, and had studied harmony, I should have been a composer. . . .

To Mrs. Scott

NEW YORK, January 23, 1889.
  . . . We all dined the other day at Professor W. C. Russell’s, who is living in a flat in our street, not far off. After dinner I amused them and the little boy with my usual répertoire of imitations of noises and ventriloquism; and they tried to interest us in the game of poker, which, I am sorry to say, we failed to appreciate. I told them the story of the man in the West, who, on being urged to play poker, excused himself because he hadn’t his revolver with him. Our only evening game at home is the old-fashioned backgammon, which Mamma and I take up generally for an hour or two in the evening. . . .

  You can’t tell how I pine for our books and my pictures and studies left behind, and boxed up in Cambridge. But we have no room for them here. If we could get a studio within reasonable distance, we might send for them. I work away at something or other in my little room at home. I shall have three large water-color pictures in the exhibition which will soon open at the Academy, and now and then I exhibit a painting at the Century Club’s monthly meetings. I have just had accepted by “Scribner’s Magazine” two stanzas with an illustration I made, which I will copy for you,—that is, the poem. The editor of “Scribner’s” is Mr. E. L. Burlingame, the son of our old friend, the Minister to China, whom we used to know in Paris,—a very pleasant gentleman. . . .


Perched on the breeze-blown wires the careless birds
Whose chattering notes tell all the wit they own,
Know not the passage of the electric words
Throbbing beneath their feet from zone to zone.

So, while mysterious spheres enfold us round,
Though to life’s tingling chords we press so near,
Our souls sit deaf to truth’s diviner sound.
Ourselves—no Nature’s wondrous voice we hear.

Francis Boott to Mr. Cranch

CAMBRIDGE, December 13, [1888.]
  I am glad you are comfortably situated at New York and doubt not you will find it better for you than Boston, and a fortiori Cambridge. I find Duveneck and all his artist friends are of that opinion. Indeed those of his former pupils settled there think it offers better opportunities for an American than Europe. Duveneck went on there not long ago with some idea of staying. But he has a studio in Boston, and a baby too. I wish you could see the little gentleman. . . . I suppose you take great interest in your grandchildren. But I can’t help feeling the interest in them becomes very different as they get older. Two years is a model age, every day develops new traits, new acquisitions. It is sad to fancy him a big fellow of six feet or more, which he will be if he lives. Of course there is interest even for such, but how different. . . . Let me see your song, and try my hand at it, provided you don’t get any satisfactory arrangement. Perhaps you will become a composer in the next world.

Mr. Cranch to Francis Boott

January 24, 1889.
  “Ne sutor ultra crepidam” is a wise old saw, no doubt, and not inapplicable to some things I attempt to do. If I have the impulse sometimes to weave æsthetic, airy robes for kings and queens, when I should be working at my cobbler’s stool, I have no other excuse than an occasional, natural inclination, which should never, however, be indulged, when I have n’t even entered the apprenticeship of the craft. My poor little attempt at melody submits humbly to the judgment of experts. And I am taught not to assume airs unless I can show good reason for them. I have given you a good deal of trouble about this deformed child of mine for whom no clothing can be found to make him a gentleman. Ça ne vaut pas la peine! Indeed I had almost forgotten its existence. Let it go among the shades, and we will try to stick to our last in future. But I must thank you for the trouble you have taken about this unnecessary bantling.

George William Curtis to Mr. Cranch

June 28, 1889.
  I am very glad that you enjoy the Motley letters which have really introduced Motley to his countrymen and shown them how easy it is to misconceive a personality. He was always considered a doubtful American, but he was in fact one of the best types of true Americanism. In the March “Harper” I had an article upon him to announce the Letters, in which I alluded to this quality. The other day I received a large and beautiful silver bowl from Lady Harcourt and her sisters, suitably inscribed, which is a very pleasant memorial of the work. Holmes was the natural editor, but he said that he was too old and he proposed that I should undertake it. . . .

  The knee relaxes gradually but surely. I do not walk normally, but I walk, and that makes me gay. I am sorry to hear of your blue streaks, but they, I am sure, are only summer vapors. If you have not decided where to go for the summer, I should think this heat would make the vision of the ocean irresistible. I long for that even among the pleasant hills.

Mr. Cranch to Mrs. Scott

Chronicles of the Land of Nod
Chap. XIII

  1. And it was the season of summer in the Land of Manhattan. And it waxed exceeding hot.

  2. And they that had nothing to do sat in their rocking chairs and read the papers, or consulted the thermometer.

  3. And many longed to get out of the city and seek the sea, but they could not.

  4. And there was a man of Manhattan who was a painter, and he left the city with his family by steamboat and railroad to the Jersey shore.

  5. And they came to a place called Asbury Park.

  6. How be it, it was not a park, but a flat and sandy tract of land with small spindling trees. And there was nothing to paint.

  7. And they came to a house called the “Magnolia.” And there they fel1 among the Baptists.

  8. Yet were they exceeding kind folk, and were not of the class called “Hard-Shell.”

  9. And they were people who drank no wine.

  10. And their dinner hour was about the sixth hour, when European people sit down to their first meal.

  11. And they ate fast, and went and sat on the front porch. And there they talked of the weather and of the Baptist Church.

  12. But sometimes the youths and young maidens played a game called “croquet,” with loud talking and laughing.

  13. And lo, there was among them a Baptist doctor of divinity, who wore unclerical garments, and rode upon a bicycle. And there was no one who gain-sayed him, or thought that he did that which was unseemly.

  14. And this man from Manhattan, whose name was Christopher, talked on the porch with some of the Baptists. But they did not try to convert him.

  15. And on week days some of the younger folks went down to the seaside, where there was a great crowd, and dipped themselves in the roaring waves.

  16. And on the Lord’s day they went to the churches.

  17. And the heat was exceedingly fierce. And there was laziness and languor in the air. It was a land, where, as certain of our poets have said, it seemed always afternoon.

  18. And some of them spent much time in sleep. And those who did not sleep sat continually on the front porch, and talked of the weather.

  19. And they who took afternoon naps said perpetually, “Blessed be the man who invented sleep.”

  20. And when they awoke from their slumbers they said, “Lo, this is the Land of Nod, of which the Prophets of old did speak.” Selah.

  . . . We have been here about a week. As you see by foregoing chronicle, it is exceedingly hot weather. But we are in a very comfortable house. . . . But it isn’t like the New England seacoast air. It is a sleepy place, and it is an effort to do anything. It is also a curious place,—a large town, spread out with pretty houses and wide streets, plenty of shops, and electric lights, and electric cars. . . . There is fine surf-bathing, though too much of a crowd. . . .

To his brother Edward

CAMBRIDGE, October 28. 1889.
  I am glad you like the Quincy poem.4 I took a great deal of pleasure in writing it, and in delivering it. It was listened to attentively, and is spoken of well by my friends. But I think you exaggerate some things a little. The ground I had, to work on was hardly “rough and rocky,” but rather an oft-travelled highway; the difficulty was in making such a trite theme as the Puritan Fathers fresh and poetical. Perhaps that is what you meant. Neither was the audience, I think “severe,” at least my Quincy meeting-house audience,—I can’t answer for that outside reached by the Press. Nor was the fact of its being published entire anything specially emphasizing the poem. The occasion was an interesting one, and the “Herald” laid itself out to appropriate what would make the best show. In fact it was put into type before it was delivered.

  The poem will be published in the church exercises in pamphlet form. And then Mead, one of the editors of a new magazine, “The New England Magazine,” wrote to me asking if he might print it in his publication. I assented, of course, it having already become public property by being printed in the “Herald.” The whole thing was of course “a labor of love,” as the ministers say; all the gold I get being whatever golden opinions may happen—along with yours.

  October 30. Interruptions will occur. We are settled very comfortably in our old Cambridge home, and I should like to stay here. I have my cosey study, my little adjoining bedroom, my books and manuscripts about me, my pleasant outlook from the windows, with the sunshine and the falling October leaves, and the quiet—so different from Newport. I revel in the space and elbow room of a house: we were absurdly cramped for room in our New York flat. There are some great conveniences in a fiat, but great limitations too. I should like to stay here, and end my days here, since we can’t afford to take a house in Newport. But wife and daughter, especially the latter, like the idea of trying a New York boardinghouse again for a while. . . . But we shall be here at any rate till January. . . .

  How I should like to talk with you about your European experiences. How wonderfully you and Emma got through with your tour.5

CAMBRIDGE, January 1, 1890.
  . . . I thank God to-day for you, my dear brother, and that I have heard from you at last. But I don’t blame you for not writing oftener, with your lame hand, and your work to do. You have a hard life compared with mine, and are a little, not much, farther down the slippery slope of life, where we can’t stand quite so erect and spry and acrobatic as once. It is a matter of great curiosity to me to think what we two old gentlemen, and all the rest of the old gentlemen and ladies we know, are coming to, at the end of our slide downhill. I must confess to terribly agnostic views about it all. I try not to think of it; I try to believe there may be a waking into another state. But whether there be or not, what can we do about it? I presume whatever will be, will be for the best. Our good old brother John would be shocked if I ever should say this to him. To his facile faith the going out of life is only like stepping from a train to a platform—and an eternal home.

  Are you buckling to the Buckle? No, I can’t say I have read him, but a long while ago, in Paris, I borrowed him of a friend, and dipped into him, and was much interested. But he is a theorist, and believes the world has advanced through Intellect alone. But Intellect is only one of several factors in the world’s growth. You ask what is the greatest book now. I really don’t know. I only see here and there smaller lines of light in what seems to me the right direction. We have some clever philosophic minds in New England, perhaps as good as anywhere. And while I think of it, let me strongly recommend you (if I haven’t already) to a remarkable article by Dr. William James, son of Henry James, and Professor of Philosophy here in Harvard—on Spencer’s “Definition of Mind.”

  But I’m not much of an explorer in philosophical books. I have been dipping into a French translation of Von Hartmann’s “Philosophy of the Unconscious.” I did so, because I had written an essay on the unconscious life, which I have read once or twice before small audiences. I didn’t see Hartmann’s till I had written my essay. He goes too much into philosophy and endless details of the relations of the unconscious to organic life, for me. I found that I agreed with him in many things, but I failed to get any particular light from him on the Mind, on Faith, or on any deep things of the Spheres. We have a Sunday Afternoon Club in Cambridge, where we meet at one another’s houses, and have an essay and conversation. We have run it a year and a half. We have had some strong men read for us—Dr. Hedge, Dr. C. C. Everett, J. W. Allen, and a good many others. Now and then I have taken my turn. We find these meetings very edifying. . . .

CAMBRIDGE, January 14, 1890.
  Your appreciation of my verses “warms the cockles of my heart” (what are the heart’s cockles, by the way?). But you know you are not in the position of an unbiased critic—”Love adds a precious seeing to the eye.” I wish all my small and select circle of readers could put on your spectacles and see the beauties that you do. . . .

  That is excellent and striking which you say about the conflict of forces constituting all life. Is this thought original with you, or partly so? It is good and memorable, and accords with my views- “By this conflict Evil becomes not good, but the necessary condition of it.” In my “Ormuzd and Ahriman” I tried to express something like it—but vaguely. Your formula is more exact and scientific.

  “Without resistance Force itself ceases—force with nothing to act on being unthinkable and non-existent.” “Life a play of action and reaction and kept up by opposing forces.” This is good—and all that follows. I clap my hands and throw you an invisible bouquet.

  By the way, I have just given in the proof of my essay on the “Unconscious Life,” which I think you have seen, to Rev. Joseph H. Allen, the Editor of the “Unitarian Review.” It will probably appear in the next number—and I will send it to you. Mr. Allen writes me very complimentarily about it: “I have just left your paper with the printer—with gratitude and delight that you give me the privilege of printing it. It is like a fresh breeze out of the golden days when the world was young—to us I mean—and reads like one of the clearest and pleasantest of the voices that belonged to that time, before Carlyle became surly, or Emerson had gone upon the shelf. How is it that we have known so little of you in your prose?”

  This—from a scholar and thinker like Allen—ought to cheer up an old man who sees his audiences fading away around him. I told him I valued his praise as an incentive to better work. . . .

  Mr. Cranch was asked to speak at the Browning Memorial Service held in King’s Chapel, Boston, on January 28. He was very glad to respond, and his address is pleasantly remembered by his hearers, both the reminiscences of the man and his well-considered appreciation of the poet.6

  In contradistinction, a letter from Mr. Edward Cranch to his brother, written about this time, vigorously expresses what a good many feel in reading Browning.

  Like Alcmene, in giving birth to Hercules, he was racked by immortal throes, and could but yell. People a thousand miles off could tell something was the matter with him—but, like the Delphic Oracle, he lacked the power of expressing what it was. And when he was most in earnest he was least communicative. Whether this lack of perspicuity resulted from indifference or his natural buoyancy of spirit, bouncing over ditches and fences like a kangaroo,—calling dogs to come along, and raising a cloud of dust behind him.—One says lo! here, and one says lo! there, but where Browning is, or what he is after, is beyond any human comprehension to say like a flea, etc.

  If there is anything that baffles and angers me, and bungs my eye, it is a want of downright, honest, stark naked perspicuity of style, and this has excluded me forever from the charmed circle of Browning worshippers, and left me with the mark of Cain on my forehead.

  But Browning is no charlatan. He is a good honest man—or thinker—who has been sent for some useful purpose. He may have been sent to Vassar to punish young ladies for blubbering over their Miltons and Virgils,—or to Yale and Harvard to make the established classics seem easier,—or to Boston to fill vacant places left by the clergy,—or to the Chatauqua circle as an endless comfort, or subject of debate.

  But joking apart,—I can see that this tough Browning has fought his way to the front, and struck a magnificent path in the direction of reflective poetry of the future, and I don’t want to see that glorious current set back. I never understood Wagner till I went to Baireuth and I don’t expect to ever understand all of Browning.

Mr. Cranch to George William Curtis

CAMBRIDGE, May 9, 1890.
  We all thank you for sending us the tissue paper portrait of yours from the drawing of Mr. Cummin, and here don’t let me forget to acknowledge the photograph you sent some time ago, done, I think in Philadelphia. It is difficult to say just where Mr. Cummin’s drawing fails in being altogether satisfactory. It is like and yet not like. We all think he has missed giving the character and vitality of the face. It has a more worried look than I often see in you. But I am a difficult critic as regards your face, which I have known so well and so long, and I dare say the drawing will seem much better to some who don’t know you so well. But as the mobility of your features has so often defied the photographer, I don’t much wonder that it baffles the artist too.

  This unlikeness of one photograph of you to another, and the unlikeness of all of them to the original, is always an inexplicable thing to me. I wish you would keep your collection of these essays and show them to the portrait painters. Did Mr. Cummin see them? They would make a most unique collection.7

  I don’t think I ever told you of my birthday celebration in March. My friend Mrs. Stearns had given me a bottle of Spanish wine—Xeres—which she declared was over a hundred years old. I immediately wrote a sonnet to the donor, and told her I should keep the flask, unopened until some rare occasion. So, as my birthday was coming, I invited three old cronies, two of them born the same year with myself and one a year older, viz.: John S. Dwight, Frank Boott, and John Holmes, to come around in the evening, to the opening of the wonderful old wine. They all came, and Lizzie trotted out some of the old family silver, and presided at the table. In the centre appeared the wonderful wine, still in its old straw sheath. Then, by way of grace, I read them my sonnet, and with all due reverence uncorked the reverend flask, not knowing but it might have lost all its original virtue. But we all looked at each other, and I suppose smacked our lips. The old sherry was just perfect; a trifle dry, but such a bouquet! As a fit accompaniment to this melody, we had some delicious crackers and cheese, and we all thought nothing could be sweeter.

  After this we adjourned—we four old fellows-to my study, where we finished off the evening with punch, cigars, and quips and cranks, and wreathed smiles, and all went off with decent sobriety, not one mistaking another’s umbrella or overshoes for his own. Boott actually soared into verse, and wrote some lines addressed to me on this memorable night!

  I have been sitting to Duveneck for my portrait, a success, I think. . . . I am quite busy preparing my Autobiography, not for publication, but for my children and grandchildren, as a family record.

  Mr. Cranch wrote this to the hermit thrush, which is heard morning and evening on Gerrish Island. He was staying at the Hotel Pocahontas before he made his visit to the new house. Quoting from the “Log at Brawboat,” he says:—

  “Nothing can exceed the beauty and variety of the views in every direction. At the Pocahontas . . . the view of the open sea and lonely rocks is impressive but monotonous. . . . Here, the various indentations of the coast with the rising and falling of the tide—the shipping—the houses in the distance—the pond—the dark fir woods—the rocks, give a most agreeable combination of solitude and human life.”
“Oh, will you, will you?” sings the thrush
Deep in his shady cover.
“Oh, will you, will you, live with me,
And be my friend and lover?
“With woodland scents and sounds all day,
And music we will fill you;
For concerts we will charge no fee.
Oh, will you, will you, will you?”
Dear hidden bird, full oft I’ve heard
Your pleasant invitation,
And searched for you amid your boughs
With fruitless observation.
Too near and yet too far you seem.
For mortals to discover.
You call me, yet I cannot come,
And am your hopeless lover.
Like all that is too sweet and fair,
I never can come near you.
Your songs fill all the summer air—
I only sit and hear you.
GERRISH ISLAND, July 11, 1890.

O. B. Frothingham to Mr. Cranch

BOSTON, November 16, 1890.
  Your Sonnets to O.B.F. in your last volume touched me deeply. Would the subject were worthy of them! Such recognition is more than reward enough. There is real satisfaction to one who has flung abroad so many seeds that have perished because they had no right to live, that some have lodged in a poetic soul and brought forth such fruit.

  Your lines on “Old Age” in “Scribner’s” for October too were most pathetic. They brought tears to my eyes, I accept the greeting, I entertain the trust. The hope grows sweeter and dearer as the shadows gather.

  I should have been to see you long ago if I had been able; but mine has been a miserable Autumn. Pain and weakness have kept me in town and have greatly circumscribed my walking in the city. . . .

Mr. Cranch to his brother Edward

CAMBRIDGE, December 28, 1890.
  I usually go to church, but this morning wife and daughter take my place, and I perform the secular duty of going to the P. O., and behold I am rewarded with your letter written Xmas Day. . . . Your letter makes brighter to me even this bright sunshiny day. But I don’t like that picture of you I see sitting on Christmas Day over your fire, with your little black-and-tan for company, and all the family away, and the snow coming down and the wind howling, and you covering up your fire and turning in—all alone in your house. I wait with some anxiety to hear they have returned. Your account of your streetcar experiences is all in your best vein. But the idea of an old gentleman past eighty being suffered by his wife and daughter to perambulate the winter streets and vex his soul out buying Xmas presents, is not to be tolerated.

  I leave most of this business to my wife, who in spite of her bodily infirmities manages somehow, with her immense nervous energy, and her maternal and grandmaternal yearnings, to get to Boston and buy a great box of presents. . . . I have, however, done a little shopping for this Xmas. But it is a dreadful business, unless you begin early in the season, taking Time by the forelock—or as the Portuguese phrasebook has it, “Taking the occasion for the hairs.” I made several attempts to get to the counters in several shops where there were Christmas cards; but it isn’t very easy to carry on negotiations in stationery and pictures over the heads of men and women, especially women, who, when they get to the counter, somehow seem stuck there by invisible glue. The fact is we are overdoing Christmas more and more every year. It used to be a children’s festival. Now we must give to old as well as young. Happy are we that it comes but once a year.

  Your letter makes me long to have a good long talk with you. Yes, let me have that submerged essay you are half tempted to write. Do write all your fingers are capable of doing, the more the better; serious or gay. What lots of things there are we could talk about! The fact is there is no knowing where to begin or where to end, things crowd so into my head I want to talk over with you. And this stiff pen and cold white paper are not exactly the most favorable mediums for communication. There are fifty openings into fifty topics, all leading into some chambers of thought and feeling common to us both! But where to begin? By the way, what a clever and wise sentence is that of yours, “Doctrinism is like a bad champagne cork; it keeps the liquor, but lets the aroma escape.” It is just so. Men may make celestial maps of the heavens, but the heavens can never be prisoned in diagrams and definitions. That which exists at the centre of things touches us at the circumference, in every core and avenue of feeling, if we are only alive. But it is not to be adequately described; not to he packed into a system or a creed.

  How can we measure this boundless element in which we are drifting (yet not drifting I hope, except to some great terminus, some haven)? And yet we have intimations that come to us, we don’t know always how, of great realities that are dateless, measureless. We have glimpses—too few, alas, and too crowded—of a great Light. We have perfumes from hidden gardens; snatches of music from unseen orchestras; electric thrillings from abiding centres, somewhere; inspirations from something far above us, yet in some sense in us.

  But this is rather of the essay style, and to confess, is borrowed from an essay which I should like to read to you, on the “Evolution of the Moral Ideal.” In it I have been tempted to have a little fling here and there, at the doctrines of F. E. Abbot. Have you read his book, “Scientific Theism,” and his other book, “The Way out of Agnosticism”? Abbott thinks he has introduced revolutionary methods into philosophy. He applies the scientific method to everything; even to proving the existence of God. He has a patented private scaling-ladder, and gets in where angels fear to tread, and makes God as palpable and plain to our intellectual grasp and comprehension as the material atmosphere. But I can’t help saying here, if we can prove and comprehend thus the Infinite Soul of the Universe, why, we may as well carry him in our pockets, as a South-Sea Islander might do his idol! . . . .

  A deeply interesting book I have partly read—it was borrowed, and had to be returned-is Dr. Martineau’s new volume, the “Basis of Authority in Religion.” I had never read anything of Martineau’s before; was greatly impressed with this. He is profound and radical, and yet, in the true sense, conservative, and is a wonderful master of style. I think I shall have to buy the book.

  And now I wish you would (when you feel able) sit down and tell me about your “important discoveries.” I have no doubt they may be new to me, for I am the greatest ignoramus in much that a Harvard professor might insist upon, in the line of philosophic thought. And then, sometimes, I feel like dodging this whole matter of questions and cross-questions, and falling back on a plain level of common sense, taking refuge from the flying missiles, in the holes and crevices of unquestioning faith, in a few undiscovered places.

  Well, here I am essay-writing, or pretty near it; and there are Lizzie and Carrie—I hear them—just got home from church—much pleased with the preaching and the music. But I think I have been to church too, with my dear brother. . . .

  Uncle Edward’s Golden Wedding, when the house at Walnut Hills, Cincinnati, was in holiday array, was a very great event for my father, his dearly loved brother. My father came from his quiet study in Cambridge, to meet here, in his own home, that intimate brother, surrounded by his family, his wife, children, and grandchildren, by nieces and nephews and old friends. It was a beautiful day,—April 15,—already warm in Ohio. The house was festive with yellow roses in profusion. The guests came with their love and friendship to congratulate this young-old pair of lovers. Dear Uncle Edward was like a young bridegroom. His partner had a light in her face as she greeted her friends and presided over this remarkable occasion. Youthful she was in spite of her white hair.

  The presents ranged from golden champagne, golden ducats, to a pretty little gold brooch of two hearts together. I noticed a pair of dainty gold slippers for this dear old Cinderella. There was a painted plate with a poem of my father’s upon it.

  The two brothers met the day before the great occasion, and afterwards my father stayed on for a little visit at the Walnut Hills home. There they renewed their youth by long talks, walks, and duets on their flutes.

George William Curtis to Mr. Cranch

ASHFIELD, August 1, 1891.
  Our day of memory dawns again. Here on my book shelf is the little bark canoe on which is the name of the ship and the immortal date, which Carrie carved, and five years ago filled the canoe with flowers.

  I came over from Albany three weeks ago, tired out and with a headache a month old. I have done as little as I could since I have been here, but a little, as you may be aware, is not much! Sometime ago I promised the Harpers to make a little book of pieces from the Easy Chair. The task has been very great for so very small a result.

  Forty-five years ago on the glad waters of the dark blue sea we had other thoughts than book-making and it is curious how all to-day the thought of that day of embarkation has filled my mind. My only trouble has been that I cannot recall the name of our darky steward who brought the gruel and the glass of sherry. My recollection is blended of sherry, darky, gruel, and “Home fare thee well.” My lady of the gold ear hoops and her buxom children with their expansive sable nurse, are very visible in my memory.

  And where are you all and how are you? When we parted at the South Ferry I hoped that I should see you while you were still at Yonkers but this has been really the busiest year of my life and many of my most blooming grapes turned out to be sour. . . . Tell Lizzie that I hope her native Hudson air has restored to her the health she used to have, and that this day reminds her of that old love of mine which is always in the most vigorous health.

Mr. Cranch to Mrs. Scott

CAMBRIDGE, August 23, 1891.
  We left Lexington yesterday, a little sooner than we expected. There were a good many discomforts there, and we are glad to get back to our home. The weather has been very hot, and I don’t know when I have been so used up as I was yesterday, with fatigue, heat and illness. One of our greatest annoyances at the Hotel in Lexington was the locomotives, for we were close to the railroad station. I never should have taken rooms there, had I thought of that beforehand. Two or three times a day, besides the hourly passage of the trains, there would be a freight train that kept coming and pretending to go, and then coming back again, with tremendous explosions of steam; often in the middle of the night we had it, within a stone’s throw of our windows, which we were obliged to leave open on account of the heat. I used to lie awake and swear internally. I christened the place “The Devil’s Kitchen.” Sometimes the “Old Boy” seemed to be frying fish half the night. On the cool nights it was n’t so bad. Then we had musical classes who kept up a constant thrumming and singing in the great hall, and the service was very ineffective in various ways. But we found some pleasant people, and a gem of an old doctor, Dr. S., a friendly and sympathetic gentleman, who remembered hearing me preach about fifty years ago in Dr. Furness’s pulpit! And I was much pleased that he should have remembered one sermon, in which he says I foreshadowed Darwin’s doctrine of Evolution. I have a rather vague remembrance of it, but I lost the Manuscript. I suppose it was among the papers and books burnt up in the Old Homestead fire in 1857, while we were in Paris. Besides my books I must have lost many valuable letters and some manuscripts that were worth preserving.

To his brother Edward

CAMBRIDGE, September 5, 1891.
  I am very glad to hear from Margie that you are with her and enjoying the change of scene and the sea-air. Before you go back to the West, Lizzie and I want you to make us a little visit in Cambridge, say, in ten days or a fortnight from now, when the household wheels run a little more smoothly. I have not been at all well, more or less, for some time, and this week the horrid dyspepsia is complicated with other symptoms. I have no appetite and no strength and no energy and no ambition. For the last few days I have lived chiefly on tea and toast and milk, and keep to my armchair and Dickens, for want of a better story-teller.

  If I am well enough, I shall try to run down to “Brawboat” (the name of N.’s house at Gerrish Island) for a few days. . . . I hope you will come to us.

BOSTON, December 9, 1891.
  Your letter is just received. I am sitting up in my easy-chair, and had a quiet day yesterday and a quiet night. I have suffered less pain lately, owing to the caution in my food. . . . I have lost all my strength and it is only with an extreme and sudden effort that I can move from place to place. Dressing and undressing is an absurd labor for me. But I generally have quiet nights, contriving to patch out the long hours with successive light naps and usually pleasant dreams. My wife and daughter are invaluable nurses. We are going back to Cambridge tomorrow, with new servants who promise well. . . . We have been very comfortable here, but shall be glad to be again at home. I think I’ve not been out of my room for a fortnight.

Edward P. Cranch to his brother

CINCINNATI, January 9, 1892.
  It is with deep concern that I hear, through sister Margie, of your prolonged illness and pain and weakness. I am grieved to be so far away from you, and so little in a condition to be of aid and comfort. But I am thankful that you have good nursing and attendance, and I hope the doctor will at last bring you through and restore you to health.

  I must not fatigue you with letters, but I want you to know that we are thinking continually of you with deep sympathy and praying for your recovery.

  May God bless you and sustain you and bring you to health again, is the sincere prayer of your brother.

George William Curtis to Mrs. Scott

January 15, 1892.
  I had heard from Mrs. Brooks, so that your letter did not surprise me, although it is long since I have felt so deep a pain. All that you say is in harmony with his pure and gentle and noble life, and I can only hope with you that when the end shall come, it may be as peaceful as you describe his days.

  It is fifty years since I first knew your father, and in all that time there has been no kind of break in our regard. How many of my happiest recollections are associated with him and your mother I and how long now seems the vista through which I look back to the earlier days! . . .

  My daughter and I are fighting the grippe. My movements are therefore very uncertain, but you will give my old and constant love to your dear father—a love blended with pride to have been the friend of a man who has never broken faith with himself, and has walked always with sublime faith the upward way.

  Your mother knows my feeling for her, and indeed, for all of you, and with the warmest sympathy and affection, I am

Your friend always.

  Mr. Cranch’s health began to fail in the last part of the year 1889. He had then what he thought was dyspepsia. It was the beginning of a deep-seated trouble. He could not eat what he was accustomed to. He wrote funny letters to his brother Edward and to his friend Mrs. Stearns. He made pictures of the “grasshopper burden” at which his friends laughed. His muscular strength held out to the last day of his life. His elder daughter was summoned from the West, to take care of him.

  Mr. Samuel Longfellow found him bright and hopeful about the outlook.8 A piano was brought into the house and Mr. Paine played the beautiful classical music he loved. His face was then transfigured, and he listened with an exalted look that was long after remembered. His friend Mr. Boott came and talked with him. The elder two grandsons came to see him from their school, remaining quietly in his room, caring for his fire or his medicine. He gazed intently into their faces, seeming to see their future life and getting encouragement therefrom.

  The end came peacefully, like a child going to sleep, the morning of January 20, 1892.

George William Curtis to Mrs. Cranch

January 20, 1892.
  N.’s telegram has come, and I am very sorry that I am not in a condition to leave home, and I must say elsewhere what I have to say of the pure and noble and gentle soul that is gone. As I told N., it is just fifty years since I knew him first, and I always treasure the recollection of the charm of aspect and manner, and of the exquisite temperament. Fresh and unwasted to the end was the bloom of youth that lay upon his soul, and I shall always hear that mellow voice and feel my pulse beating with that faithful heart.

  My dear Lizzie, there are no words for consolation, and I can but vaguely conceive what the pang must be. The loss of a dear child I have known, but not this more intimate and desolating sorrow. Once, long ago, he spoke to me of the end, but with perfect trust in the divine benignity of the eternal laws. Upon no human soul were they ever more legibly written than upon his, and for all who loved him, his memory will be joy and peace.

Edward P. Cranch to Mrs. Scott

CINCINNATI, February 8, 1892.
  I thank you most kindly for the tender care you have taken to inform me of the particulars of your dear father’s last moments on this earth. It was a grief to me that my own disabilities, my extreme old age, and the inclemencies of the winter, prevented me from being once more with him in December.

  He was very dear to me from childhood, and his memory will be precious to me while I live. During our almost lifelong absence we kept up a most affectionate personal correspondence, and his letters helped to instruct and soothe me through all the vicissitudes of life. It is not without tears of the tenderest love that I can even think of him or speak of him to you, his loving and thoughtful child, his kind nurse in sickness. My heart is full, and yet I can say no more at present, except to share my sympathies and sorrows with his family, his wife and daughters, his two good sisters, and others who knew and loved him. My own best thought now is thankfulness to God, who granted me for three quarters of a century, the life and brotherly love of so noble a man! And oh, it is my comfort to think that if there is in nature a warrant for the aspirations of the human soul, he is now among the blest in that brighter world of his poetic dreams! And oh, that I were worthy to hope that in some capacity I could again be within hail of that dear brother, that good and patient spirit!

  Your dear father was four years younger than myself, and I have no right to expect to survive him long. The decrepitude of age is stealing my strength and brain, but if there is anything I could do to perpetuate his example and his memory on the earth I would gladly do it.

  Soon after Mr. Cranch’s death, Mr. Curtis in his “Easy Chair”9 paid his last tribute to his old friend:—

  The Easy Chair first saw Christopher Cranch one evening at Brook Farm, when the Arcadian company was gathered in the little parlor of the Eyry, the brown cottage which was the scene of its social pleasures. He was then nearly thirty years old, a man of picturesquely handsome aspect, the curling brown hair clustering around the fine brow, and the refined and delicate features lighted with sympathetic pleasure. He seated himself presently at the piano, upon which he opened a manuscript book of music, and imperfectly struck the chords of an accompaniment to a song which was wholly new and striking, which he sang in a rich, reedy, baritone voice, and with deep musical feeling. There was an exclamation of pleasure and inquiry as he ended, and he said that it was called the” Serenade,” and was composed by a German named Schubert. He had transcribed it into his book from the copy of a friend.

  Thus at the same time the Easy Chair made the acquaintance of Cranch and Schubert. The singer was still a preacher, but was about leaving the pulpit. He was already a disciple of Transcendentalism, the far-reaching spiritual revival and impulses of that time.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

  Cranch followed the leading of his temperament and talent in becoming an artist. He was, indeed, an artist in various kinds. The diamond which the good genius brought to his cradle, it broke into many parts. He was a poet, painter, musician, student, with a supplement of amusing social gifts, and chief of all was the freshness of spirit which kept him always young. The artistic temperament is one of moods, and Cranch was often silent and depressed. But it is a temperament which is also resilient, and recovers its cheerfulness as a sky of April shines through the scattering clouds. Sometimes in later years, when the future which, seen from a studio, is often far from smiling, he came to the room of a friend, and there, before a kindly fire, with a pipe of the “good creature,” and with talk that ranged like a humming-bird through the garden, the vapors vanished, and the future, seen from another point of view, smiled and beckoned.

  For fifty years his life was nomadic. He was much in Europe, living chiefly in Rome and Paris, with excursions; and in America his centre was New York, even although toward the close of his life his home, where he died, was in Cambridge. His heart was disputed by painting and poetry. He painted and sang. The early bent of his mind, which carried him into the pulpit, held him to religious interests and reading, and while he published poetry and translated the 1Eneid, he wrote grave papers, and in his “Satan,” and other poems, dealt with ethical principles and religious speculation. His nature was singularly childlike and sensitive, and he was wholly in accord with what was really the earnest and advancing spirit of his time. Doubtless he desired a larger public recognition than he found, and he saw, but without repining, that others appeared to pass him in that uncertain competition where the prizes seem often to be awarded by a fickle goddess.

  But no such perception chilled his work or daunted his hope. When he was threescore and ten, his form was still lithe and erect, his step elastic, and, in a friendly circle, his manner was as buoyant as ever. The diffidence of youth still remained, and made his age more winning. Nature in all its aspects did not lose its charm for him, and although in later years he painted little, his interest in books, in society, and good-fellowship never flagged. He was of that choice band who are always true to the ideals of youth, and whose hearts are the citadels which conquering time assails in vain. It was a long and lovely life, and if great fame be denied, not less a beautiful memory remains. It was a life gentle and pure and good, and as living hearts recall its sun and shade, they unconsciously murmur the words of Mrs. Browning, “perplexed music.”


1 A photograph of Miss Cranch’s portrait of her father.
2 Celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of Harvard University.
3 Mr. Cranch’s poem, “Soft Brown Smiling Eyes,” the music of which Mr. Boott wrote.
4 A poem read by Mr. Cranch at the celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the First Church of Quincy, Massachusetts.
5 Mr. Edward Cranch, who was in his eighty-first year, had lately returned from his first visit to Europe.
6 In conversation at this time Mr. Cranch told this little anecdote: “One day, it was in Paris, I asked Browning what was the Good News they brought from Ghent to Aix. ‘Well,’ he answered, ‘you know about it as much as I do.’”
7 Mr. Curtis kept a collection of these photographs of himself. One, I remember, was marked underneath, “A Idiot.”
8 Mrs. Stearns, in a letter to Mrs. Scott, said: “My old friend, Mr. Longfellow, wrote to me the 21st- ‘Yes, Cranch is gone. On Sunday he told me, in a few words, of his outlook of faith into the life beyond. It was the sunset that he had painted.’ This sunset reveals your father’s life and faith.”
9 Harper’s Magazine, April, 1892.

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