and a Host of Others.
The text of what follows is found in the following, which the reader may imagine to be a neat heliotype billet:
The Publishers of The Atlantic Monthly request the pleasure of your company at dinner on Monday, 17th inst.--the 70th birthday of John Greenleaf Whittier--at the Hotel Brunswick, Boston, at 6.30 P. M., to meet the Contributors to The Atlantic Monthly.
December 8, 1877.
R. S. V. P.
The Brunswick was the scene last night of such a gathering of "literary fellers" as is seldom if ever seen in this country. Among the guests who assembled to do honor to the Quaker poet were such men as Henry W. Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver W. Holmes, Charles Dudley Warner, Thomas W. Higginson, R. H. Stoddard, Benjamin H. Ticknor, John Weiss, E. P. Whipple, Francis H. Underwood, George E. Waring, J. T. Trowbridge, Edward Abbott, James R. Osgood, Horace E. Scudder, G. P. Lathrop, S. J. Barrows, J. Boyle O'Reilly, Samuel L. Clemens, H. S. Noyes, Luigi Monti, Charles Elliot Norton, W. H. McElroy, Edward H. Knight, A. G. Houghton, William A. Hovey, J. B. Greenough, G. C. Hill, William F. Apthorp, W. H. Bishop, W. H. Babcock, William M. Baker, Sylvester Baxter, C. C. Buel, Mr. Bugbee, Hezekiah Butterworth, T. G. Cary, C. P. Cranch, Arthur Dexter, Charles Wyllys Elliott, Charles Fairchild, Arthur Gilman, D. A. Goddard, Professor Greene, T. S. Perry, T. C. Rich, Arthur Searle, John Trowbridge, J. Hammond Trumbull, Joseph Wharton, Edward Wheelwright and others. And last, but not least, to the great surprise and delight of all, Mr. Whittier himself was there. The beautiful dining hall in the new wing of the hotel was the scene of the festivities, the tables being laid with over sixty covers. On the walls were a portrait of Whittier, wreathed in English ivy, and an oil painting of his Amesbury home. The tables were beautifully decorated with flowers. At the head of the table, in the order named, sat the following gentlemen:
Charles Dudley Warner, William D. Howells, Oliver Wendell Holmes, H. O. Houghton, John Greenleaf Whittier, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
The following was the
OYSTERS ON SHELL. ___ Sauterne
Puree of Tomatoes au Croutons.
Consomme Printanier Royal. ___ Sherry
Boiled Chicken, Halibut a la Navarine.
Potatoes a la Hollandaise.
Smelts Panne, Sauce Tartar. ___ Chablis
Capon a l'Anglaise.
Saddle of English Mutton a la Pontoise.
String Beans. Turnips.
Mumm's Dry Verzenay.
Filet of Beef, larded, Sauce Financiere.
Vol au Vent of Oysters a l'Americaine.
Squabs en Compote a la Francaise, Tomatoes.
Terrapin Stewed, Maryland Style.
Sorbet au Kirsh. ___ Claret
Broiled Partridges on Toast. Cavasback Ducks.
Water Cresses, Sweet Potatoes, Dressed Lettuce. ___ Burgundy
Charlotte Russe. Gelee au Champagne.
The dinner was begun at about 7 o'clock, and it was 10.10 when the after-dinner exercises were opened.
Mr. H. O. Houghton called the company to order at 10.10 o'clock, and spoke as follows:
GENTLEMEN, CONTRIBUTORS TO THE ATLANTIC: It is thought best that we begin the second part of the feast before the first is ended. The object of this gathering is to celebrate the arrival of the Atlantic at its twentieth birthday (applause), and secondly, to celebrate the arrival of our distinguished guest at his seventieth birthday. (Applause.) His presence here is more eloquent than any words of mine. What I have to say will be addressed to the younger contributors, and concerns the Atlantic itself. The Atlantic Monthly, with the January number, enters upon its twenty-first year. It started upon its career during the financial crisis of 1857. It has encountered the usual vicissitudes of American youth, and is full of possibilities for the future. We are glad to welcome here tonight those who, in the vigor of manhood, were its founders and constant contributors, and who still give it the influence of their great names and well-earned reputation, as well as the matured product of a genius enriched by a lifetime of labor. May the day be far distant when we shall lose the light of their example, or miss their genial presence! We also welcome here tonight the younger contributors, who are pressing on, with no unequal steps, to scale those loftier heights of fame and usefulness, which the vastly broadening area of human thought and endeavor makes possible. During the twenty years of its existence the Atlantic has had but three editors, happily all living. The first is now holding an important diplomatic position abroad; the second, having disburdened himself of the harassing cares of business, as well of more exacting literary labors, is now instructing and enlightening the public from the lecture platform, and is thus engaged this evening and prevented from meeting around this festal board. The third, refusing all the blandishments of power and ignoring all temptations to make a fortune, is here to answer for himself and his doings since he has controlled the editorial department. The type-setting of the magazine has always been done in Cambridge, and was started in the office where it is now printed; and this occasion recalls many hallowed reminiscences of its first edition and proof-reader and its early contributors. Its first publishers were Phillips, Sampson & Co., a house of great enterprise; but unfortunately, owing to the decease of its two senior partners and financial embarrassments, has ceased to exist, and is only remembered for the good that it has done. Early in its career the magazine passed into the hands, by purchase, of Messrs. Ticknor & Fields, by whom and their successors, James R. Osgood & Co., it was continued until 1873, when it passed into the hands of its present proprietors. During all these years and changes it has been true to its ideal conception as the leading magazine in literature, science, art and politics in this country, and while thoroughly New England in its instincts and traditions it has been as broad and powerful as even its great namesake, the Atlantic Ocean, in its influence upon American literature. Its earliest contributors and editors, with no bond except their love for their own offspring, have been thoroughly loyal to it, and have made it the vehicle of their best thoughts, while its circulation has followed each succeeding wave of that great tide of emigration from New England which has peopled the great West and Southwest, and the land beyond the Sierras. It has also given back to us, with its ebb, some of its younger and most promising writers. Now, after a score of years, we can but regard its career as just begun, as the exponent of the highest American culture in literature, the most impartial and independent criticism in science and art, and the freest discussion of politics, not from a partisan standpoint, but, as heretofore, in the cause of righteousness, truth and common progress. The primeval forests, with their fast disappearing inhabitants, the enfranchisement of a whole race from bondage, with the terrible tragedies, domestic and national, from a resulting civil war; the many lovely landscapes and brooks and rivulets "winding at their own sweet will" even in rough New England, together with the magnificent prairies, broad rivers and lofty mountains of the great West, furnish ample material for the future romancer, poet and historian; while the restless activity of our people in science and art, constantly evolving new theories and making new discoveries, renders the field in this direction simply inexhaustible. While in the domain of politics, the life of the State is alone preserved by the boldest and freest discussions of the great problems of political ethics. But in securing the best results there is need of the combination of the best business talent with the loftiest efforts of authorship. The great merit of the first Napoleon, in the eyes of literary men of a previous generation, was that he had threatened to shoot a publisher--possibly because that threat unexecuted, more than Austerlitz or Waterloo, indicated his courage! But it is not my purpose, nor does it become me, to defend publishers as a class against literary men. If I were disposed to do it here it would be imprudent, as you are "too many" for me. There is, probably, no business strictly legitimate, so speculative and so uncertain in its results as that of publishing books. The picture of the distraught author with his massive pile of manuscript under his arm, and his "eyes in fine frenzy rolling," is not more mirth-provoking or truly harrowing in its effect on the looker-on than that of the publisher who with his own, or more likely borrowed, capital strikes hands with him and sits down and counts in advance the immense profits of the venture, sees visions of brownstone fronts, palatial seashore residences and all the paraphernalia which wealth is apt to inflict upon its possessor. But alas! the result is pretty sure to be loss of capital, unpaid printers' bills, and the manuscript which came seething hot from the brain of the poor author has been transmuted into cold lead and then consigned to a dungeon to await the fame of the resurrection day, unless previously brought out to be melted up in the electrotyper's furnace. Publishing and authorship must necessarily keep pace with each other. However antagonistic, they travel under the same yoke. Even in the two short decades since the Atlantic was started they have made some progress. It is only a few years since, not only in the country towns but in the cities, that pills and poetry, essences and essays, drugs and dramas, were disbursed over the same counter and by the same hands. In the process of natural selection it was perhaps logical that a decoction of poetry should be followed by a purgative of pills. The publisher of the first collected edition of the works of our revered poet was also the vender of Brandreth pills. He made a fortune, and I leave you to infer whether it was from the pills or the poetry. But, notwithstanding all these discouragements, the business of publishing books has its uses and its successes, which are not the result of fortunate ventures, but, as in every other profession or calling, are only secured by thorough knowledge, patient labor and a clear conception of the end to be attained. (Applause.)
Mr. Houghton, in conclusion, introduced Mr. Whittier, at the mention of whose name the entire company rose and cheered. Mr. Whittier got on his feet, looking very much perturbed, and the cheering was renewed. When it had subsided, he said slowly, and with some embarrassment:
You must know that you are not to expect a speech from me tonight. I can only say that I am very glad to meet with my friends of the Atlantic, a great many contributors to which I have only known through their writings, and that I thank them for the reception they have given me. (Applause.) When I supposed that I would not be able to attend this ceremony I placed in my friend Longfellow's hands a little bit of verse that I told him if it were necessary (applause) I wished he would read. (Applause.) My voice is of "a timorous nature and rarely to be heard above the breath." My friend Longfellow will do me the favor to read the writing. (Applause.) I shall be very much obliged to him, and hope at his ninetieth anniversary some of the younger men will do as much for him. (Applause and cheers.)
Mr. Longfellow then read Mr. Whittier's new poem which, as it had been sold to a literary periodical, is withheld from publication. It was listened to amid profound silence and was greeted at the close with long and loud applause. Mr. Howells then presented Mr. Emerson, who read Whittier's poem "Ichabod." Then the editor and toast-master rose amid applause and said:
GENTLEMEN, CONTRIBUTORS AND FRIENDS OF THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY: The serious moment has approached which sooner or later arrives at most banquets of the dinner-giving Anglo-Saxon race; a moment when each commersal, like the pampered sacrifice of the Aztecs, suddenly feels that the joys which have flattered him into forgetfulness of his fate are at an end, and that he must now gird himself for expiation. It is ordinarily a moment when the unprepared guest abandons himself to despair, and when even the more prophetic spirits find memory forsaking it, or the treacherous ideas committed to paper withering away till the manuscript in the breast pocket rustles sere and sad as the leaves of autumn. But let no one at this table be under a fearful apprehension. This were to little purpose an image of the great republic of letters if the mind of any citizen might be invaded and his right to hold his peace denied. Any gentleman being called upon and having nothing to say, can make his silent bow and sit down again without disfavor; he may even do so with a reasonable hope of applause. Reluctant orators, therefore, who, chafing under the dread of being summoned to stand and deliver an extorted eloquence, and have already begun to meditate reprisals upon the person or the literature of the present speaker, may safely suspend their preparations; it shall not be his odious duty to molest them. We are met, gentlemen, upon the seventieth birthday of a man and poet whose fame is dear to us all, but whose modesty at first feared too much the ordeal by praise to consent to his meeting with us. But he must soon have felt the futility of trying to stay away, of endeavoring to class himself with the absent who are always wrong. There are renowns to which absence is impossible, and whether he would or no Whittier must still have been in every heart. Therefore he is here in person, to the unbounded pleasure of those assembled to celebrate this day. I will leave him to the greetings of others and for my own part will invite the goldenest silence of his sect to raise a fitting tribute to the verse in which a brave and beautiful and lofty life is enshrined. As to the periodical which unites us all, without rivalry, without jealousy, as Mr. Whittier says, the publisher has already spoken, and where there is so much for the editor to say he cannot perhaps say too little. For twenty years it has represented, and may be almost said to have embodied, American letters. With scarcely an exception every name known in our literature has won fame from its pages, or has added lustre to them, and an intellectual movement, full of a generous life and of a high ideal, finds its record there in vastly greater measure than in any or all other places. Its career is not only distinguished among American periodicals, but upon the whole is unique. It would not be possible, I think, to point to any other publication of its sort which so long retained the allegiance of its great founders, and has added so constantly so many names of growing repute to its list of writers. Those who made its renown as well as those whose renown it has made or is making, are still its frequent contributors, and even in its latest years have done some of their best work in it. If from time to time a valued Atlantic writer ceases to appear, he is sure finally to reappear; he cannot even die without leaving it a rich legacy of manuscript. All young writers are eager to ally their names with the great memories and presences on its roll of fame; its stamp gives a new contributor immediate currency; it introduces him into the best public, the best company, the company of those Boston authors who first inspired it with the life so vigorous yet. It was not given us all to be born in Boston, but when we find ourselves in the Atlantic we all seem to suffer a sea-change, and aesthetic renaissance; a livelier literary conscience stirs in us; we have its fame at heart; we must do our best for Maga's name as well as for our own hope; we are naturalized Bostonians in the finest and highest sense. With greater reverence and affection than we can express, we younger and youngest writers for the Atlantic regard the early contributors whom we are so proud and glad to meet here, and it is with a peculiar sense of my own unworthiness that I salute them, and join the publishers in welcoming them to this board. I know very well the difference between an author whom the Atlantic has floated and an author who had floated the Atlantic, and confronted with this disparity, I have only an official courage in turning to invoke the poet, the wit, the savant whose invention gave the Atlantic its name, and whose genius first prospered the adventurous enterprise. If I did not name him, I am sure the common consciousness would summon Dr. Holmes to his feet. I have felt authorized to hail the perpetual autocrat of all the "Breakfast Tables" as the chief author of the Atlantic's success by often hearing the first editor of the magazine assert the fact. This generous praise of his friend--when in a good cause was his praise ever stinted?--might be spoken without fear that his own part would be forgotten. His catholic taste, his subtle sense of beauty, his hearty sympathy and sterling weight of character gave the magazine an impress which it has been the highest care of his successors to keep clear and bright. He imparted to it above all that purpose which I hope is forever inseparable from it, when in his cordial love of good literature he stretched a welcoming grasp of recognition to every young writer, East, West, North or South, who gave promise of good work. Remembering his kindness in those days to one young writer, very obscure, very remote (whose promise still waits fulfilment), I must not attempt to praise him lest grateful memories lead me into forbidden paths of autobiography; but when I name Mr. Lowell I am sure you will all look for some response to Mr. Charles Eliot Norton, a contributor whose work gave peculiar quality and worth to the earlier numbers of the magazine and whose presence here is a grateful reminder of one with whom he has been so long bound in close ties of amity.
Mr. Norton was heartily applauded on rising to speak. He said:
We miss here tonight one man who is equally well known under different names; we may call him wit, humorist, scholar, thinker, sage, friend, and we shall find for each designation some fitting application. And, as the first editor of the Atlantic, I am sure it was due to his comprehensive sympathies and varied scholarship that the Atlantic took its place as the first American magazine. And in the new duties to which he is called now the same qualities will make him the best representative of our better American social and political life. In the place he now fills I cannot but regard him in a very especial sense as the envoy of the company now gathered around this table. Every one of us has had possessions in Spain which need to be well looked after. Lowell himself has had considerable estates of this kind. And you, sir, his friend, whom we greet with all love and honor always, you, too, have had very large domains in that fair land. How many castles in Spain not built of stone have you dwelt in, and how many of us have you welcomed as guests within their stately walls. And you, sir, our guest, even you, modest as your retirement has been, have had your private speculations in Spanish real estate, and from some of them you have enjoyed large revenues. And even you and I, Mr. Editor, and all the rest of us, have our smaller domains there, but I am afraid that all the castles are not in good repair or quite habitable. Such being the case, I am not surprised that Lowell should write to me that he finds the legation at Madrid is one of the busiest in Europe. He has to look out for our title deeds. Let us send him God-speed, and when he returns let him bring us the assurance that henceforth we shall enjoy undisturbed and unencumbered all our castles in Spain. (Applause.)
Mr. Howells then read some extracts from the many letters of regret received, a few of which are appended:
Bryant, Bayard Taylor, Aldrich, Felix Adler, Curtis, Dr. Holland, General Magruder, and Others, Send Their Greetings.
WINCHESTER, Va., December 14, 1877.
The Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Letters:
46 PARK AVENUE, NEW YORK.
CAMBRIDGE, 11th December, 1877.
"Mark Twain" was then introduced by the Chairman, and spoke as follows:
. . . . . .
This eccentric story was told in Mr. Clemens's characteristic drawling, stammering way, and produced the most violent bursts of hilarity. Mr. Emerson seemed a little puzzled about it, but Mr. Longfellow laughed and shook, and Mr. Whittier seemed to enjoy it keenly. The following poem was then read by Mr. R. H. Stoddard and was greeted with cheers:
ON HIS SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY.
Long have I known, in books, this Friend of Friends,
Mr. W. W. Story was the next speaker. He said he had come to be as Bottom desired to be--all ears; and he contented himself with greeting the company cordially and returning his thanks. The next speaker was Charles Dudley Warner, whose remarks were as follows:
MR. CHAIRMAN: It is impossible to express my gratitude to you for calling on me. There is but one pleasure in life equal that of being called on to make an after-dinner speech, and that is not being called on. It is such an enjoyment to sit through the courses with this prospect like a ten-pound weight on your digestive organs. If it were ever possible to refuse anything in this world--except by the concurrence of the three branches of government--the executive, the obstructive and the destructive, I believe they are called--I should hope that we might some time have our speeches first, so that we could eat our dinner without fear or favor. I suppose, however, that I am called up not to grumble, but to say that the establishment of the Atlantic Monthly was an era in literature. I say it cheerfully. I believe, nevertheless, that it was not the first era of the sort; the sanguine generations have been indulging in them all along. And as "eras" they are apt to flat out, or, as the editor of the Atlantic would say, they "peter out." But the establishment of the Atlantic was the expression of a genuine literary movement. That movement is the most interesting, because it was the most fruitful in our history. It was nick-named transcendentalism. It was in fact a recurrence to realism. They who were sitting in Boston saw a great light. The beauty of this new realism was that it required imagination, as it always does to see truth. That was the charm of the Teufeldoch philosophy; it was also poetry. Mr. Emerson puts it in a phrase--the poet is the seer. Most of you recall the intellectual stir of that time. Mr. Carlyle had opened the German world to us. Mr. Emerson lighted his torch. The horizon of English literature was broken, and it was not necessary any longer to imitate English models. Criticism began to assert itself. Mr. Lowell launched that audacious Fable for Critics. A lusty colt, rejoicing in his young energy, had broken into the old-fashioned garden, and unceremoniously trampled about among the rows of box, the beds of pinks and Sweet Williams and Muling seed. I remember how all this excited the imagination of the college where I was; it was what that great navigator who made the "swellings from the Atlantic" called "a fresh-water college." Everybody read "Sartor Resartos." The best writer in college wrote exactly like Carlyle; why, it was the universal opinion, without Carlyle's obscenity! The rest of them wrote like Jean Paul Richter, and like Emerson, and like Longfellow, and like Ossian. The poems of our genius you couldn't tell from Ossian; I believe it turned out that they were Ossian's. Something was evidently about to happen. When this tumult had a little settled the Atlantic arose serenely out of Boston Bay--a consummation and a star of promise as well. The promise has been abundantly fulfilled. The magazine has had its fair share in the total revolution of the character of American literature--I mean the revolution out of the sentimental period; for the truth of this I might appeal to the present audience, but for the well-known fact that writers of books never read any except those they make themselves. I distinctly remember the page in that first Atlantic that began with--
a famous poem, that immediately became the target of all the small wits of the country, and went on with the opening paragraphs of that autocratic talk which speedily broke the bounds of the Atlantic, and the Pacific as well, and went round the world. Yes, the Atlantic has had its triumphs of all sorts. The Government even was jealous of its power. It repeatedly tried to banish one of its editors, and finally did send him off to the Court of Madrid. And I am told that the present editor might have been snatched away from it, but for his good fortune in being legally connected with a person who is distantly related to a very high personage who was at that time reforming the civil service. Mr. Chairman, there is no reason why I should not ramble on in this way all night; but, then, there is no reason why I should. There is only one thing more that I desire to note, and that is that, during the existence of the Atlantic, American authors have become very nearly emancipated from fear of or dependence on English criticism. In comparison with former days they care now very little what London says. This is an acknowledged fact. Whether it is the result of a sturdy growth at home or of a visible deterioration of the quality of the criticism--a want of the discriminating faculty--the Contributors' Club can, no doubt, point out. In conclusion Mr. Warner paid a brief but eloquent tribute to the Quaker poet. His remarks were greeted with applause.
Colonel Thomas W. Higginson made a brief address, relating several interesting anecdotes about Whittier, who had now left the room, it being after midnight. He said that Essex County had been made classic ground by Whittier, and the islands and the seacoast had been identified with his fame.