London Letter

Authors I Have Known

Intimate pen pictures of great authors of the Victorian Era, by a member of a famous writing family

London Letter

Authors I Have Known

Intimate pen pictures of great authors of the Victorian Era, by a member of a famous writing family


Authors I Have Known

Intimate pen pictures of great authors of the Victorian Era, by a member of a famous writing family


SOMEBODY asks about the authors I have known. I fish in the ragbag of an old woman’s memory for scraps of literary gossip.

From the time I was old enough to be trusted not to interrupt. I was always present when there were distinguished guests at our house. The talk I heard at the table was the best education I ever received, for I was not a bookish child and did not love my studies. I heard and remembered the conversation of the habitués of our house — Henry James, the elder, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Sumner, Whittier, Longfellow, Holmes; most of the travelling lions of literature and science.

Mr. James, author of “Christianity, the Logic of Creation,” father of Henry, the novelist, and William, the philosopher, was one of my early friends. He liked to take me on his knee, to my mother’s terror—she was always afraid I would discover his wooden leg! One day I came rampaging into the parlor, where he and my mother were holding high discourse. I had lost one shoe, torn my pinafore and all the curl had come out of my yellow mane.

“Maud,” quoth he, “you are the wickedest-looking thing I have seen for a long time.”

I was only five years old, believed he meant what he said, and retorted:

“You are the ugliest thing I have ever seen. What makes those little red veins in your nose?”

He told the story to Helen Bell, adding, almost tearfully: “I know I am plain, but Maud Howe says 1 am the ugliest man she ever saw. Do you agree with her?”

I have never forgiven myself for this. I hope the kind old gentleman forgave me.

Dickens, The Dandy

AMONG the authors of the little old Boston of my youth, Ralph Waldo Emerson was the most revered. I heard him lecture several times, and sat at meat with him at my father’s table. 1 remember the sound of his voice as if I had heard it yesterday, silver sweet with a ring like steel in it. My last visit to his house in Concord was on a day of showers. It poured at the time we were leaving.

“My dear,” he said to his daughter, Ellen Emerson, “we must lend Mrs. Howe that . . . thing we use when it rains.” This was near the end of his life. While his mind remained perfectly clear, he was often at a loss for a word.

Emerson died shortly after Longfellow. At Longfellow’s funeral he referred to the dead poet as “our dear friend,” evidently unable to pronounce his name.

To my mind, Emerson is still the head and foremost of American authors. Today all educated people are familiar with his essays; as a poet he is almost forgotten. I hold his poems among the best literature has to offer. After an ill-spent day, his poem, “Days.” has power to rouse remorse in me for neglected opportunities, wasted time.

In 1867 Charles Dickens gave two readings in Boston. On an earlier visit he had made acquaintance with my father, and in his “American Notes” he told the story of the miracle wrought in the education of the blind deafmute, Laura Bridgman, the precursor of Helen Keller.

Dickens’ readings were given in Bumstead Hall, I think; one of those arenas like a circus, with the stage at the bottom of the cup. The program included “Boots at the Hollytree Inn,” and the trial scene from “Pickwick Papers.”

Dickens was then fifty-five years old. a trim figure of a man, tending to baldness, with sandy hair and whiskers, and keen merry eyes. He was something of a dandy, wearing a dress suit with black velvet lapels, a red carnation in his buttonhole, and a showy gold watch chain and fob. His reading seemed to me the ne plus ultra of eloquence, and I was used to good reading, for every evening my father read aloud to us such classics as Scott, Dickens, Macaulay. At the close of Dickens’ reading we spoke to the idol. “This is my youngest,” said my father.

Dickens gave my thirteen-year-old shoulder a little pat. I treasure the memory as of an accolade from the King of English letters.

My memories of the poet Longfellow include my first and last visits to Craigie House in Cambridge, Mass., where he lived and died. The first was made in company with my uncle, Sam Ward, Longfellow’s devoted lifelong friend. Uncle Sam had come from New York by the night train, and called for me soon after seven in the morning. We drove to Craigie House, where we found the poet in his study, standing writing at a high desk. Beside him was his bubbling coffee machine, a contraption of two cylinders, one of porcelain, one of glass. Longfellow was at work on his translation of Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” He told us that he could translate a verse of four lines in the time it. took his coffee to boil. He wore a handsome black velvet dressing gown, with a design of bright flowers. His silver hair, mild blue eyes, pink and white complexion, made an

indelible impression on me. It may have been on this occasion, after Uncle Sam had produced from the deep pockets of his overcoat two bottles of Rhine wine, that Longfellow said: “Sam, the Greeks say that whom the gods love die young, because, like you, they never grow old.” I am glad to learn that Longfellow is still popular in our schools, and that boys and girls recite "The \\ reck of the Hesperus,.....The Village Blacksmith." "Excelsior,” “The Psalm of Life," just as I did so many years ago. On sleepless nights there is nothing so comforting as to repeat these lovely lyrics of the silver-toned i>oet.

The last visit to Longfellow that 1 remember was on the occasion of the division of the Sumner bronzes. Charles Sumner left his fine collection of bronzes to my father and Mr. Longfellow. My mother and I drove to Craigie House, where the collection was displayed. It included two large classic statues, by far the most valuable objects.

“We will draw lots for the first choice,” said the poet. He won and chose the handsomest bronze.

My mother was the most unworldly person I ever knew. To my horror, she chose one of the objects of lesser value— an ebony table with a bronze plaque inset. Quick as a flash Longfellow chose the second best bronze, so that he had the two best pieces in the collection. After that 1 chipped in, and had something to say about the subsequent division. The fan-shaped screen before the fireplace at Lilliput. and the Lorenzo de Medici in my library, are part ot that rich legacy.

Bret Harte, Mark Twain

AT THIS time my mother often entertained her literary friends at half-past-nine-o’clock breakfast. I remember one of these occasions at 32 Mt. Vernon Street, where we were then living, when Bret Harte was the guest of honor. His volume of short stories, “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” was the book of the hour. I had not known there was to be company at breakfast and, having slept late dressed hurriedly, putting on the first thing that came handy, a rather shabby red blouse called a Garibaldi. Conscious of not looking my best, I was chagrined that Bret Harte should see me, and never quite forgave my mother for not telling me beforehand that he was coming.

In these no-breakfast dieting days, it may be interesting to look at the menu of the time:

First, cereal with sugar and cream; then beefsteak; eggs and bacon; sausage or (innan haddie; a choice of two or three solid dishes, followed by buckwheat cakes with maple syrup, the whole topped olf with strawberries and cream or whatever fruit was in season. This was long before grapefruit was dreamed of. The drinkables a choice of tea, coffee, chocolate or milk.

Mr. Emerson said of Bret Harte: “He has taught the English writing world a lesson in brevity it will never forget.” I recalled these words when I was reading “Anthony Adverse” and "Gone With the \\ ind. ’ Bret Harte is too much forgotten today—his short stories, his poems, his inimitable condensed novels. He is best remembered by his comic poem, “The Heathen Chinee." His pictures of the California of the Forty-niners have never been equalled. Both in prose and verse he is first among the Argonauts.

This brings me to Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens, still one of the best beloved and most popular of American authors. His “Huckleberry Finn” is a classic, but for me “Innocents Abroad” is quite as good. I have two distinct impressions of Clemens, one when he came to a meeting of the Boston Authors’ Club at the house of Thomas Wentworth Higginson in Cambridge, and gave great offense to some of the members by his rather clumsy clowning of some of Boston’s most cherished Brahmins. The second time I saw him was at a fashionable London hotel, where he was the cynosure of every eye as he stepped out of the elevator dressed in a white broadcloth evening suit, a white rose in his buttonhole. I íe had a shock of hair which he wore long and r .ther tousled, a striking, not a handsome man, tall, well made, with rather hawklike features suggestive of a bird of prey. I remember one store' he told us. In "Innocents Abroad” he describes a visit to the family of the Czar of Russia, ending with some such phrase as this:

“And we left the royal family to count their spoons.”

Twenty years after the book had been published, Clemens happened to meet one of the grand dukes, who asked with great earnestness.

“Just what did you mean in your book, about leaving the royal family to count the spoons?”

The jest had rankled all those years!

Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes

JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER was an honored, though not a frequent, guest at our house. He lived outside of Boston, in some Massachusetts town, Haverhill, 1 think. His poem, “The Hero,” was written about an episode in my father’s life when he was fighting for Greek freedom. The first lines, “Oh, for a knight like Bayard, without reproach or fear,” I can never read without emotion. Among his poems likely to be remembered today are “Maud Muller” and “Auld Floyd Ireson.”

Whittier was a Quaker and an ardent abolitionist. 1 remember him as a lovely gentle old man who spoke little and always to the point.

The genial Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, I)r. Oliver Wendell Holmes, was the exact opposite, one of the most loquacious and wittiest of men. For many years he was our near neighbor, and always a beloved friend. He, too, wrote a poem about my father, in which he apostrophizes him as the Cadmus of the Blind. On one occasion, when I was arranging a dinner at my mother’s house, I invited Dr. Holmes and his rival wit, Tom Appleton, Longfellow’s brother-in-law. The affair lacked the “go” of most of our parties. The next day my mother told me the reason.

“My dear, to invite Tom Appleton and Dr. Holmes to the same dinner is like asking two prima donnas to sing at the same concert. It simply isn’t done!”

Dr. Holmes was a small, vivacious man, full of wát and humor. For me his poems have more zest and fire than his “Autocrat.” My father often likened my mother to the Deacon’s One Moss Shay, built to last a hundred years. With youth’s temerity, I once asked Dr. Holmes w'hich of his poems was his favorite. I íe answered, without hesitation. "The Chambered Nautilus.” My own choice would be “The Last Leaf on the Tree.”

I once w’rote to Dr. Holmes: “Will you come to luncheon with us on the 27th of May, when my mother will be seventy years young?”

In his acceptance he wrote: “It is

sometimes better to be seventy years young than twenty years old.”

All the letters and telegrams were pasted in a birthday Ixxik and, on the afternoon of the great day, a reporter from one of the Boston newspapers pounced u|x>n the phrase quoted by Dr. Holmes, repeated it in his story and gave credit to the doctor. It immediately became the word of the hour, and to this day is constantly used. My mother was vexed that her ewe lamb’s mol should lx* accredited to Dr. Holmes, who did not need it.

"Never mind,” she «fid to comfort me, “you have added a phrase to the language and that is doing something.”

My last impression of the Autocrat is of a blustering day when I met him, then in his eighties, on Beacon Street, Boston, just outside of the Public Garden. As we walked along together, he said:

"Remember this, my dear, that after eighty, every year takes something from us that we can never regain.”

I made some commonplace reply, but «tid to myself: “You old idiot, its a

miracle that you are alive at all !”

Now that 1 am nearing the mid-eighties,

I often think of Dr. Holmes’ words.

Browning and Swinburne

TT WAS in the year 1877 that I first learned something of literary London and met a few of England’s well-known writers. Walter Besant, author of “The Golden Butterfly,” was one of the men I liked best. He w as most hospitable, and we s|x*nt many happy hours in his home, I think it was in Chelsea. I le greatly disliked his sister-in-law. Annie Besant, and said so, telling us that in order not to be confounded with her he pronounced their name differently. I have forgotten if he was Besant or Be .sauf. He was a stocky man with a full beard and quizzical, kind face.

Edmund Yates, though a prolific writer of novels, was better known as the editor of the Dmdon World, a brilliant weekly with more personal gossip than was usual in the England of that day. A rival journal. Truth, was edited by Henry Labouchere. an advanced Liberal in politics. The two editors exchanged weekly gibes. Yates was a friend of my uncle, Sam Ward, and gave a dinner for us at the Star and Garter at

Richmond on the Thames. We drove down to the famous inn on Lord Dunraven’s four-in-hand coach. Among the guests I remember lovely Violet Fane, writer of verse, one of the belles of the artistic circle, and William Mallock, w’hose “New Republic” was the book of the season. He was a youngish man with stiff shoebrush black hair, and a belligerent manner. William Black was of the party. Everyone was reading his “Green Pastures” and “Piccadilly," just out. He was the most silent of the party, where Louis Jennings, journalist and novelist, with Yates, led the brilliant talk. I thought Black the most interesting-looking of the company, and still remember his grave reticence when the froth of the gay conversation is forgotten.

I wish I could make you see the London I first saw the gay Ixindon of Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, when beautiful women and fine horses were the cults of the day. Among the professional beauties were several Americans, more than one of whom was honored by the Prince.

There were many Jewish families of high social standing in London. We were splendidly entertained by the Sassoons, the Goldsmiths, the Rothschilds, the Montefiores and the Lehmans. One evening Mrs. Lehman welcomed me with:

“Miss Howe, Mr. Browning often dines with us. 1 always send him my list of guests, asking him to choose the lady he will take in to dinner. Tonight, he has chosen you.”

I had been brought up in the Browning tradition. My feeling for him was hero worship of the most virulent description. I thought, and still think, him one of the great jxiets of English letters. I had never seen him, and somehow pictured him of the same romantic type as the poets with whose jxirtraits I was familiar Byron, Shelley, Keats, Walt Whitman, Bryant, Dmgfellow. Browning looked more like a dandified man of the world than a poet. He had a waxed mustache, a monocle, and in haircut and costume was all that one might expect of a Piccadilly swell.

I was all atremble as he offered me his arm and led me to the table spread with fine linen, glittering silver and crystal. After we had taken our seats, he adjusted his eyeglass and glanced at the menu. His first remark to. me was something like this:

“I often dine at this house, and know the chef’s best dishes. I advise* you to take what I take. There is far more than anyone can eat.”

So, it was revealed to me that the feet of my idol were of clay.

I had turned hot and cold at his very presence, and the shock and disillusionment have never been forgotten.

I never saw Swinburne, whose “Atalanta in Calydon” I hold to be one of the best examples of musical verse in any language. My husband remembered well his visit to Swinburne. He arrived at the time he had been invited, and found the poet seated on the top step of his library ladder. Taking lxx>k after book from the shelf, he struck it against his head, then threw it on the fkxir.

“Take that! And that! And that!—for all you have taught me!” was the one phrase Mr. Elliott could recall out of a fkxxl of excited talk.

This was before Swinburne was reformed by Watts Dunton. He was drinking hard and writing impassioned verse. After his reformation he wrote rather prosaic prose.

Among the faces that I can still see in retrospect, after sixty years, is that of Sir Wilfred Scawen Blunt, author of “Dive Sonnets of Proteus.” Blunt was a many-sided man, a poet, a publicist of strong nationalistic views, and a lover of Arab horses. Lady Blunt was a Ixivelace. Byron’s granddaughter. One of the events of our London season was a grand luncheon at tneir country estate, followed by an auction sale of their splendid Arabian horses. We drove down from London on somebody’s four-in-hand coach, were received by our hosts, enjoyed a magnifi-

cent banquet under a marquee on the lawn, and then watched the matchless horses being shown off in the ring, and auctioned to the highest bidder.

It was on a later visit to England that I met William Sharp, poet, novelist, and biographer of Rossetti, Shelley, Browning, Heine. He was of the handsome Saxon type, with golden hair and beard and blue eyes of extraordinary beauty, all in all a charmer of the first water.

At that time there was much gossip about a sensational new writer, Fiona Macleod, whom nobody knew. Not until after his death was it known that Fiona Macleod was an alias for William Sharp.

Victor Hugo

\ÆY IMPRESSIONS of the Paris of -*■*-*■ that first European visit are more of the world of art than of literature. It was the year of the Great International Exposition. A portrait of me, by Benjamin Porter, had made quite a hit. The artist and his friend, George Munzig, were our escorts, and we saw more of painters and sculptors than litterateurs.

The outstanding incident was our call on Victor Hugo, leader of the romantic school of the last century.

Six or seven years before, Hugo had returned to France after an exile of twenty years. He was now a member of the Academy, a Senator of France, dividing his time between politics and letters. One of his satellites, a young writer whose name I have forgotten, arranged to take my mother and me to an evening reception, w'here Victor Hugo was surrounded by a group of his intimates.

Arriving at the appointed hour, between nine and ten, we were received by an elderly lady, a relative or perhaps a friend, who presided over his household.

“M. Hugo is much engaged now, talking with M. Louis Blanc. We shall see him shortly.”

I had a sense of weighty matters being discussed behind the closed doors of the study by two of the greatest of French Liberals. After more than an hour Victor Hugo entered the salon, where we were the only strangers. He bowed deeply over my mother’s hand as he kissed it and said a few words of welcome. Then, seeing me, he did me the honor of raising my hand to his lips!

That is all I remember, save the magnificent leonine head, his deep, thrilling voice, the sense that I had been in the company of one of the greatest Frenchmen of the time, and that my little hand had been kissed by the great Victor Hugo.

I kept that glove for many years!

Stevenson, Kipling

SOMETHING now of my contemporaries.

The pair to whom I owe most are Robert Ixiuis Stevenson and Rudyard Kipling. I never saw either, though I have been near to both. Shortly before Stevenson’s death he made a visit to Mrs. Charles Fairchild, at her Newport house. He was so ill that all visitors were forbidden. It was my privilege to weave a garland of wild ilowers for him, and to talk with his mother and wife. They described him so vividly that I felt I had seen him lying in a chaise longue, clad in a scarlet dressing gown, smoking endless cigarettes, and pouring out a Hood of brilliant talk. Like Marion Crawford, Stevenson had the gift of the spoken word. Those who heard his stories fresh from his lips never forgot them.

When I was living in Rome I was invited to meet Kipling at dinner. Knowing his dislike of Americans, I refused the invitation. Twenty years earlier I had declined a friend’s offer to take me to call on Tennyson in the Isle of Wight. He had been rude to American friends.

In both cases it was the intensity of my admiration for the author that made me dread meeting the man.

I first knew Henry James as a young man in our house, Lawton’s Valley, Newport. He came with his brothers.

William, the philosopher, and Wilkie and Robertson, to my elder sisters’ parties. It was not until that first London season in 1877 that my friendship with Henry James began. From then until his death we met from time to time and carried on a desultory correspondence. An inherited friendship is either an asset or a liability. In the case of Henry James, it was a gilt-edged asset. My mother thought their father far more important than either of his more gifted sons they loved her for this!

James was never a popular writer. I doubt if any of his books was ever a best seller, but his reputation remains, when many a more widely read author is forgotten. He was a shy man with a curious halting speech, and little sense of selfprotection. He was pestered by persons far inferior to himself for help and criticism of their work. He wrote innumerable introductions to books far less worth reading than his own. Mrs. Humphrey Ward liked to read her manuscripts to James, and pursued him without mercy. Once, when she was living in a villa near Rome to get local color for one of her novels, I went with Henry to spend the day at the Wards’ villa. The moment lunch was over Mrs. Ward took him into her study, where the whole afternoon was spent in discussing her work !

Henry was put upon because he had never learned to say no !

On his last visit to America he came to bid me farewell.

“Not good-by,” I said, “ Hasta luego— till we meet again.”

He shook his head. He could not cope with “the dreadful too much of American life,” he said, and all he found to praise was the abundance of towels in the bathrooms !

When the bathroom craze first struck us a group of friends were boasting; one had three bathrooms, another four, another five. Edith Wharton, turning to an Englishwoman present in the group, said:

“With us, plumbing takes the place of bric-a-brac.”

Mrs. Wharton was a friend and follower of Henry James. Her first volume, a book of poems, was published anonymously before she married Teddy Wharton, and what a pother there was in the exclusive circle of fashionable New York over this eccentricity of Pussy Jones, the ice maiden ! 11er first volume of short stories, “The Greater Inclination,” appeared shortly after her marriage and was a great success. It was followed by a steady stream of novels up to the time of her death, a year or so ago. Her posthumous volume, “The Buccaneers,” though unfinished, is one of her finest.

Edith Wharton told me she never got up in the morning until she had finished her day’s work. First, she read her mail and newspapers, saw her cook, then settled to her writing.

Most writers that I have known prefer to work in the morning.

Sarah Orne Jewett, author of that lovely story, ‘The Country of the Pointed Firs,” never took up her work till two o’clock in the afternoon; and my cousin. Marion Crawford, wrote all day and sometimes half the night.

I work from nine to twelve, a habit inherited from my mother, who would let nothing interrupt her P. T., or Precious Time.

Margaret Deland, my best friend among the writers of my time, always said she was my mother’s daughter, who had been abandoned on the Campbell doorstep. She looked enough like us to be a fifth Howe sister. She is a tireless worker, and has labored long and hard over the books that have brought her fame and fortune. Sometimes I have been her literary adviser. When the patience of her husband, Lorin Deland, gave out, I was sent for. When Margaret was writing “The Iron Woman,” they had gone over the book so many times that he finally exclaimed:

“Send for Maud. I can’t stand those damned people any longer !”

Margaret never consulted me about her “Old Chester Tales.” I doubt if she consulted anybody. The central figure. Dr. Lavender, seems the expression of Margaret herself. In Dr. Lavender she has added a live character to the world of fiction.

During the years when William Dean Howells was editor of The Atlantic Monthly. he lived in Boston, and proved a good friend to me, helping me with criticism and advice. Of all his many books, the one I remember best is a lovely short novel, “Their Wedding Journey.” When he left Boston I expostulated with him.

“New York’s such a friendless place," I said. “You’ll miss your Boston cronies.” “I certainly shall, but I shall enjoy New York’s way of loafing round the corner with its hands in its pockets.”

Family of Writers

WHEN Oscar Wilde was in America, Uncle Sam Ward introduced him to us. D’Oyly Carte had sent him over on a lecture tour in the interests of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patience.” He was said to have inspired the character of Bunthorne in the opera, which had fallen rather flat in the United States until Wilde played the part, socially, of the lackadaisical aesthete — with good box-office results. He was often at our house, a brilliant masquerader and one of the best of talkers.

My last impression of Wilde was at the opening of his play, “Lady Windemere’s Fan,” in London. We were invited to sit in his mother’s box. He came in, between the acts, a buffoon no longer but a playwright rather nervously awaiting the public’s verdict. He introduced his wife and two young sons. The impression of that family group in no wise prepared us for the dreadful scandal that left him a broken and disillusioned outcast. I have known no greater tragedy than that of the author of “Reading Gaol.”

My cousin, F. Marion Crawford, a prolific writer whose two sisters also wrote, used to say: “We all have printers’ ink in our veins.”

In my family, some of this blood that was like ink flowed from my father. His writings on the care and education of the blind, the feeble-minded, the insane, are classics and form part of the curriculum of sociology today, as does his story of the miracle he wrought in the education of Laura Bridgman, the first blind deaf-mute to be brought from a living tomb into human companionship.

My father’s first book was the “History of the Greek Revolution,” in which he served as Surgeon General of the Fleet.

His son, my brother, Henry Marion Howe, produced one massive volume on the treatment of steel. It has been translated into many foreign tongues, including the Turkish, and foreign governments recognized his genius. He was Chevalier de la Légion d' Honneur, and a Knight of the Order of St. Stanislas, but nobody ever heard of his hook except a metal'urgist. That’s the kind of fame a scientific writer gets!

Once Andrew Carnegie urged my brother to accept a position that would have inevitably made him a very rich man. Harry said:

“Mr. Carnegie, I have no time to make money.”

My oldest sister, Julia Romana Anagnos, wrote plays in the nursery and published two books. Florence Howe Hall was a tireless writer, publishing several books and contributing to newspapers and magazines. One of her sons, Henry Howe Hall, is a constant contributor to the sporting periodicals of today. The name of his daughter, Frances Minturn Howard, appears as a by-line over many a short story in our most up-to-date magazines in America and Canada. Another daughter, Rosalys, is already the author of one book for children.

Laura Elizabeth Richards never used the family name professionally, so people are surprised to know that I am the sister of the author of “Captain January.” “Golden Windows,” the Hildegarde stories, and other classics for children.

Once the State librarian at Augusta sent out a call for a complete set of books by all Maine authors. When Laura’s eightyodd volumes were finally collected and sent to the library, the janitor, unpacking them, exclaimed:

“Look at that now, what one woman can do, if she only holds her tongue !”

As I write this, here in Palm Beach, in February of 1939, my sister Laura is celebrating her eighty-ninth birthday at the old Yellow House in Gardiner, Maine. Her latest hook, “I Have a Song to Sing You,” is dedicated to her great-grandchildren. When her “Stepping Westward” appeared a few years ago, someone wrote to my sister:

“I hope you have seen Alexander Woollcott’s article about you in The New Yorker.”

Mrs. Richards replied: “What is The New Yorker and who is Alexander Woollcott?”

The friend sent this letter to Woollcott, who immediately made a pilgrimage to the Yellow House; since then the two have been fast friends.

1 wrote my first story when I was scarcely in my teens, and my first book was published before I was twenty-five. Long before that I had been contributing to newspapers and periodicals. I could write a book on “Editors and Their Ways.”

All of my mother’s children began writing in the nursery. We used our Precious Time as she did, thinking that her way was the way of all households.

She worked as nature works -steadily, regularly, without haste and without rest, producing many volumes of poetry and prose. When her work for the day was done, no one could equal her as a playfellow. She sang to us, she played for us to dance, she taught us to sing, and to love music, poetry and prose.

Julia Ward Howe is best remembered, however, as the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” In speaking of this, she said:

“And once I sprang, and pinned a verse to the hem of my country’s gown.”

Once she found me reading a “scrofulous French novel.”

“My dear.” she said, “you have only one mind and one stomach, to carry you through life. Don’t put anything foul or unwholesome in either.”

This axiom is responsible for my views on one school of modern literature: I refuse to read about subjects that in my youth were held to be the Untouchables.