Elihu Vedder.

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The Digressions of





AND THAT OF
HIS FRIENDS



By ELIHU YEDDER

CONTAINING THE QUAINT LEGENDS OF HIS INFANCY, AN
ACCOUNT OF HIS STAY IN FLORENCE, THE GARDEN OF
LOST OPPORTUNITIES, RETURN HOME ON THE TRACK OF
COLUMBUS, HIS STRUGGLE IN NEW YORK IN WAR-TIME
COINCIDING WITH THAT OF THE NATION, HIS PROLONGED
STAY IN ROME, AND LIKEWISE HIS PRATTLINGS UPON ART,
TAMPERINGS WITH LITERATURE, STRUGGLES WITH VERSE,
AND MANY OTHER THINGS, BEING A PORTRAIT OF HIMSELF
FROM YOUTH TO AGE. WITH MANY ILLUSTRATIONS BY

THE AUTHOR



'jlanban

CONSTABLE & CO. LIMITED

BOSTON AND NEW YORK

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
1911




COPYRIGHT, I9IO, BY ELIHU VKDDKR
ALT, RIGHTS RESERVED



THIS
BOOK.
O"R

ONE

OF THE. BEST OF THEM
RACE EttERYCHANNi

STETSON

ITkCU
AND




265366



Contents



INTRODUCTION: EVERY MAN HIS OWN BOSWELL xvii

"SPRING" i

CHAPTER I. QUAINT LEGENDS OF MY INFANCY. 3

Old Dutch Days Birth Down-Town, Chambers Street
A Real Death The Devil on Two Sticks and the Bologna
Sausage Up-Town, Grand Street Father goes to Cuba
and we move again The Fortune-Teller Africa and
Golden Joys Matanzas A Studio Question.

CHAPTER II. BOYHOOD AND SCHOOL-DAYS. 34

Schenectady A Visit and Hurt Feelings The Family
How I escaped Hell The Mist of Time I get back to
Long Island Boyhood Paradise A Picture of my Grand-
father Two More Escapes The Garret Aunt Eveline
and her Husband At School The Standing Challenge
Vacation and Pets Domestic Surgery The Moss-covered
Bucket and the Merry Maid Ben Gleanings.

CHAPTER III. BIG BOYHOOD. 73

I go to Cuba again I start a New Religion I go North

Again at Grandpa's We build a House My Mother's
Death An Architectural Interlude The End of Home
Moriches Wasps and Equilibrium restored Mosquitoes
and Flirting.

CHAPTER IV. YOUTH AND ART. 92

A Link Another Little Tramp The Deflation of Raf-
faello Ikey and Ikey's Father Raffaello quits Sherbourne

Guanahai In the Shade of the Sombrerodom Back
in New York My Last Visit to Matanzas Vision of Sud-
den Death Two Dreams Ben's Letter.



viii CONTENTS

"THE DEMON OF NOTRE DAME" 121

CHAPTER V. EUROPE FIRST TIME. 123

Introduction The Voyage Paris Atelier Picot
What 'might have been The Fight On the Way to
Rome A Link.

CHAPTER VI. FLORENCE, THE GARDEN OF LOST OPPORTUNITIES. 141
The Grand Duke Some Florentine Characters Inch-
bold Landor and the Nimbus Under Fiesole My
Landlady A Conversationalist Two Dreams Driven
from the Garden On the Track of Columbus The Bull-
Fighter The Rescue In Havana.

"THE OBOLUS" 187

CHAPTER VII. NEW YORK IN WARTIME THE STRUGGLE. 189

Introduction 48 Beekman Street Differentiated Sau-
sages Hitchie I buy a Baby Josephus and the Clair-
voyant Antonio Tamperings Ned Mullin C. and
his Brother PfafFs The Riots Artemus Ward My
First Faint Glimpse of Fame The Evolution of Jane Jack-
son H. M. A Slavery Lecture I receive a Letter.

"WIND ROPES" 252

CHAPTER VIII. BOSTON. 255

Hunt and La Farge Pilgrimage to Concord Coffin's
Beach and a Most Extraordinary Happening The Pickerel
and the Woodchuck Art and Business Old, Old A
Letter.

"EITHER WAY" 281

CHAPTER IX. PARIS THE SECOND TIME. 283

Lives, Letters, and Portraiture I leave New York Paris
and Propinquity Dinan Vitre Return to Paris De-
parture for Italy.



CONTENTS ix

"DREAM CHILD" 305

CHAPTER X. ABOUT MYSELF. 307

Old Letters A Digression on a Digression My Fads
The Test of the Desert Island Two Voices and Some End-
ings Adventures More Endings.

i A.X. 327

CHAPTER XL ROME. . 329

Rinehart Around the Little Tables of the Caffe Greco
A Storm in the Campagna After Dinner Pepoon's
Find Mediocrity and Modesty Rauch " Tintoretto
of Rome " Lang and his Fine Head of Hair The
Find James Smetham My Placid Friend D. Inter-
mezzo William Hunt in Rome Hamilton Wild Gio-
vanni Costa Walsh Tragedy in Retirement Le Tre
Fontani A Real Dream.

"TWO SONGS OF SADNESS" 381

CHAPTER XII. ON VISITS HOME, AND OTHER DIGRESSIONS. 383
On Visits Home Rip Van Winkleizing The Gentle Inter-
viewer The Scalping-Knife and Calumet I've done it
again The Circus Theodore Tilton Rather Than
At Dinners The Toscano The Mezzo-Toscano.

"WINTER" 40I

CHAPTER XIII. PERUGIA AND ELSEWHERE. 403

Omar Khayyam William Blake Hotchkiss Monte
Cologniola Orte and Bassanello A Glimpse of Bayard
Taylor Down by the Lake A Rustic Rumpus Fleas
and Little Troubles Elasticity Deruta Egypt The
End.

"TAMAM" 455

APPENDIX. LIST OF SALES. 457

INDEX 509




Illustrations

ELIHU VEDDER Frontispiece

(From a photograph by Benjamin Kimball)

I

4

THE DYING ALCHEMIST 9

(With detail of head)

MY FATHER I5

PAN DE MATANZAS

CRISPING 23

THE HYGROMETER 25

THE LADDER AND THE HOLE 29

THE PLAGUE IN FLORENCE 31

THE BOY 37

MY GRANDFATHER 49

THE GARRET 53

HEADS OF CATS 5 6

JACK 66

THE WELL 68

MY MOTHER 79

MY BROTHER 87

DOLORES 99



xii ILLUSTRATIONS

FROM GUANAHAI IO i

HUTS AT GUANAHAI I03

AMULET IIO

BENJAMIN DAY IIS

THE DEMON OF NOTRE DAME 121

PARIS SKETCHES 125

VERSAILLES 128



CLARA



132



THE BATHS OF CARACALLA 135

FOUR-AND-TWENTY WAYS OF BEING IDLE 137

STUDY OF YOUTH IN RED JACKET 143

ENCHANTMENT 147

(Painted for Kate Field)

FLORENTINE ARTISTS IN COSTUME 151

AN OLD MODEL IN FLORENCE 155

PORTA SAN GALLO 164

MONK * 66

ON THE WAY TO CADIZ 172

CADIZ 172

MATE OF THE SHIP OBSERVADOR 173

EL TOREADOR '77

COAST NEAR CAMARIOCA i g 3



ILLUSTRATIONS xiii

THE OBOLUS 187

"V" IN WARTIME 191

MY DORE PERIOD 195

THE NIGHTMARE 197



(Sketch made at 48 Beekman Street)

THE FIRE-PROOF SAFE 199

(Experiment in newspaper illustrating)

HOBOKEN 209

SKETCH MADE IN NAT ORR'S OFFICE 217

"V" IN 1864 221

THE QUESTIONER OF THE SPHINX 229

(From a sketch)

JANE JACKSON 237

SIBILLA OTVLEA 239

KATE FIELD 243

(Painted in Florence)

THE LAIR OF THE SEA-SERPENT 247

WIND ROPES 252

THE LOST A/LILLET 261

(From a lost painting owned by William Hunt)

PERSEUS AND MEDUSA 265

STUDY OF STILL LIFE 271

STUDY OF A YOUNG GIRL 275

EITHER WAY 281



xiv ILLUSTRATIONS

IMAGINARY LINES 2 8 S

THE FACE IN THE CLOUDS 287

SKETCH MADE IN PARIS 291

THE LUXEMBOURG GARDENS 293

THE TINKER 297

THE GATE, VOLTERRA 299

ROOFS AT VITRE 301

WAVES AT NIGHT, BORDIGHERA 304

DREAM CHILD 305

THE BOOK-WORM 309

ASTRONOMY 3 i S

SAINT SIMEON STYLITES 321

PAX 327

LA MARMORATA 33 i

"V" IN COSTUME . 335

LUCIA 341

MONTE MARIO 347

VENICE 351
DRAWING FROM A PICTURE BY AN UNKNOWN ARTIST 355

THE NINTH HOUR 361

STUDY OF A HEAD FOR THE NINTH HOUR 365

ENGLAND 367



ILLUSTRATIONS xv

THE CASTELLO FROM TORRE QUATTRO VENTI (CAPRI) 371

TWO SONGS OF SADNESS 381

"V" AT HOME 385

(Ready to be interviewed)

THE SOUL BETWEEN FAITH AND DOUBT 393

STUDY FOR HEAD OF LAZARUS 396

LAZARUS 397

WINTER 401

THE GOLDEN NET 405

"THE PARDON-GIVING AND IMPLORING HANDS" 409

(From a photograph of the artist's hands)

THE GHOST OF A FLEA 411

(After William Blake)

THE GREAT HILL OF ASSISI 413

(From Villa Ansidei, Perugia)

PORTRAIT OF A MODEL 419

BELFRY AT VOLTERRA 421

THE ANXIOUS PIG AND THE WEEPING WILLOW 423

BY THE WORLD FORGOT 427

ORTE 435

MARIETTA 439

"V" IN HIS STUDIO 449

(Via Flaminia)



xvi ILLUSTRATIONS

ON THE BANKS OF THE NILE 452

"TAMAM," FROM THE RUBAIYAT 455

THE MUSE OF AMERICAN HISTORY 461

(Design in plaster for a monument)

LION-HEADED CUP 467

BRONZE HEAD 469

BOX MADE OF CANNA 4?8

THE BOY 499

(Statue fountain)

CARICATURE 503

TAILPIECE 507



INTRODUCTION

"Every Man his own Boswell"

I HAVE been asked so often by my friends this question
"Why don't you write all these things?" that I have
finally concluded to satisfy that which on their part is only
good old-fashioned curiosity, by an exhibition on my part of good
old-fashioned vanity; and so, not to keep them waiting, I will
say at once that I have always deplored my lack of a Boswell,
my experience being that full many a spark of wit is struck to
flash unseen, and waste its brilliance on the family air. And
this in spite of my having repeatedly called the family's atten-
tion to its negligence in this respect. But suppose the Boswell,
had I a Boswell, should slowly absorb me, as good old Dr. John-
son was absorbed by the original Boswell ! Or suppose I should
be like the block of marble in Michelangelo's sonnet, "The
more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows," and the
statue should turnout to be the Boswell ! ! What then ! The moral
is clear be your own Boswell, so that if anything is to be
absorbed it will remain on the premises.

Now I have noticed, and indeed it has been pointed out to me,
that when I am talking, and especially when I am anxious to
make an impressive conclusion, I outline so broad a plan
dig a foundation so deep that I have been known to forget
what I was driving at. Of course it all comes back to me in a
moment, but things are not the same, the conversation has drifted



xviii INTRODUCTION

on and my sails drop. As this evil does not admit of a remedy,
I have determined to make of it my good, call my discourses
prattling, and my excursions digressions, and digress as much
as I please.

Thus, having drifted into something like an introduction, I
will say that I started out with a plan. It was the alphabetical
plan. Let any one try it and he will be astonished at the number
of things brought to mind as he runs over the letters ; but I found
that things fell into groups, and did not occur naturally as they
do in real life ; and as this is to be somewhat of a life I gave
that plan up.

Fearing that I may be led into telling stories, it may even
be expected of me, I should like to point out that there is a
great difference between the written and the told story, which
may be likened to the fixing of flies in amber, and reminds me of
what my friend, Frank Tracy, used to say about life-insurance,
namely, that he never played a game in which he had to die to
win ; for that is the price the fly pays for his questionable immor-
tality, immortal but lifeless, like the written story.

As an instance : we all know, because it came out in a magazine
lately, the story of how the grandchildren of Victor Hugo made
him tell over and over again the story of " the good flea and the
wicked King."

"But not with motions ?" he would always say.

"Yes, yes, with motions, with motions!''

What are stories without the motions the brightening eye,
the expressive hands but flies, once buzzing with life, fixed
for ever in amber ?

Ah, how I miss those good talks at the Club, where it was
noticed I did most of the talking ! But as that cannot be, I will



INTRODUCTION xix

try, without the great advantage of the brightening eye or the
expressive hand, to give at once a specimen of a digression, so that
my friends will know just what to expect, and will also see that
no matter how far afield I go, I always get back to where I
started, and the thing turns out little better than a digression
after all. It is going to look very like the ending of a preface.

While writing these things I have been reminded of the man
who, bringing his fist down on the table with a Bang! said,
" That sounds like a gun, and speaking of guns, let me nar-
rate an incident that happened to me during the late War,"

and on he goes indefinitely. The "Bang" in this case is the
word Boswell.

Attempt at an ending. If a man wishes to leave a pic-
ture of himself (as I have said before), let him be his own Bos-
well. He need have no fear but that he will leave a true picture,
for no matter how skilfully he may seek to hide something he
does not wish seen, the modern scientific method of criticism
will find it out, and thus his very attempt will but add another
characteristic touch to the portrait. But when a man is his own
Boswell, the affair becomes very personal indeed, and that is
just what I intend to make it. I want to recall myself to my old
friends for the little time remaining, and to set myself vividly
before my new ones, or at least leave a vivid picture of the man.
Dates count for nothing with me, but impressions are indelible,
so that in giving a history of my impressions a sort of chrono-
logical order is established for those who cannot do without it.

" Ah, how I envy you your profession, your surroundings,

your cheerfulness ! " is often said to me. Well, let it be so.
By only showing my cheerful moods, I imitate the Japanese,



xx INTRODUCTION

who, thinking there is enough of sadness in the world, give it
their smiles and keep their sorrows to themselves. There are
two sides to everything, and I should not be surprised if behind
this cheerful picture there lurked a very sad Boswell indeed, for
whom there now remains nothing but to bid himself good-bye,
with best wishes for the success of this his last fad, and a part-
ing word to the effect that, as he was born, he remains, "Come
nato, rimango," and his autograph. Affectionately yours, V.

Now you think that the foregoing makes a very neat ending to
a beginning, but you would be mistaken. The mistake would
arise from your not having grasped the meaning I attach to the
words prattling and digressing. Why, the very mention of an end-
ing suggests a beginning; in fact, it is like the serpent symbol
of eternity, the tail in the mouth and no ending in sight. This
seems to be the case with these digressions, and I seem like the
man saying grace, going on and on simply because I don't know
how to wind the darned thing up.

All this leads me to think, and may lead the reader to think,
that of the making of many prefaces there is no end, and that it
might well be, a man making a number of prefaces and proper
endings should find that he had already made a book. And
why not?

I will here confess that I have made a number of prefaces, and
that in turning these gem-like things over in my mind, some new
facet has sent out from time to time a gleam of light or strange
colour which, like an ignis fatuus, had led me on to an equally
fatuous digression. And so I have concluded to give the reader
the whole batch of beginnings, hoping that they will lead to an
approximate end.



INTRODUCTION xxi

At one time I thought it would be not only honest but advis-
able to warn the reader of what he was not to expect, such as,
when travelling, extracts from Murray, or, on mentioning a
great man, an account of his period, or estimates of the compara-
tive merit of dead or living artists ; but I found that the plan was
impracticable; it is too much on the order of, "What you don't
know would fill a large volume ";-and I gave it up. I then, some-
what chastened, turned to giving an honest and short account
of what the book really did contain, and was at once appalled
at the meagreness of the result. A few impressions, a few
moods, a few doings and happenings, a few reflections of
doubtful value, and a few stories, equally of doubtful value,
and a great deal of self. However, as this last is what I aim
at, I now give it to my friends. And as there may be in this great
big world some who are not friendly, to avoid the evil eye, I use an
old incantation I spit three times and say garlick with a k.

That looked like an ending to a beginning, but it was not,
for I must again tell of some of my little plans in the laying out
of this book, to the end that "good old-fashioned curiosity" may
be fully satisfied. Here is a plan that I thought of trying, but it
seemed so sad that I gave it up also.

Some one said that the play of "Hamlet" is a comedy punctu-
ated by tragedy. As this pretty well describes life as I have found
it, I at one time thought to enliven these pages by putting in a
little tombstone wherever Death had claimed a victim from
among those known to me. But the idea was so lugubrious, and
the victims so numerous, that, fearing to make a graveyard
rather than a gratification, I gave up that plan.

One plan I have decided on, however : I shall commence with
the quaint legends of my infancy, go on through the different



xxii INTRODUCTION

periods of my life, keeping as I have in real life some faint
semblance of order, and letting the rest be a go-as-you-please,
as it has been in the real life. As I am started on the subject
of plans for the book, 1 find I have given some thought as to
what should go in and what should be left out of it. You can
see this from my having written the following digression, which
I call Drink. The early introduction of this subject may not
be so startling to some as it may be to others.

Drink. Among my old books I have a Plutarch with title-
page by Holbein, signed with his initials, a rare thing with
him. It is copiously annotated by Erasmus Rotterdamus and
Willibald Perkheimer, the friend of Diirer; and whenever these
names occur, the book having passed through the hands of
the " Qualificatores " of the Congregation of the Inquisition,
these names have been very carefully obliterated. But Time,
in this case not the destroyer, has faded the ink so thoroughly
that the names stand out as clear as ever. I am sorry that I have
occasion to mention drink so often in these pages, for there seems
something almost immoral about it; but there was a great deal
of drink in the old days. As publishers now take the place of
the "Qualificatores" and do frequently obliterate, eliminate,
and otherwise spoil things generally, 1 have decided to let the
"twenty flasks" stand, well knowing that their absence would
only make their underlying presence more evident, and that in
the course of time the murder would out. Apropos, I once met
Lang at the Club and said :

"Lang, how about drinking now-a-days?"

"Ah, as for trinking, I have quvite giffen it up ; dat is to say,
except ven I am in gompany or ven I feel lonesome."



INTRODUCTION xxiii

As for myself, I am still unrepentant and drink just as much
as nephritis will allow. But perhaps I am bragging. I think
Lang covers the ground better than I do.

There is another thing I must allude to. In stories there are
many things "of great pith and moment" which cannot be told
in our common language. These the learned put into Latin,
and seem to be all the more respected for so doing. Let some of
the straight-laced translate the Latin in our friend Story's book,
" Roba di Roma " and watch the result. I hope it will be the same
with my Roman "Roba," for although not one of the learned, I
can and do sail very close to the wind, thus in a manner replacing
their Latin. Expurgation is a fine word and perhaps a good thing,
but I hope the book may not need it. In any case, I have followed
the advice of Bacon and taken care that it may not happen as
it "fareth in ill purging, the good be taken away with the bad."

I once had the pleasure of being at a dinner where we became
mighty merry (drink again) ; many stories were told and there
was great laughter. In the midst of it, a Spaniard who could
talk English well enough, but not well enough to tell stories,
leaned over to me and said, " I also can tell funny stories in
Spanish." So could I in Latin.

Finally. And now it is time to write "A Little Preface,"
which even including its inevitable digressions, will come to a
conclusion. And I begin by remarking that in one thing I am
fortunate in my writing : I can express myself fully without dan-
ger of redundancy, which I take to be stuffing. What I have
to fear, on the contrary, is paucity ; so that if by chance this book
should turn out a pinguid one, it will be by reason of the stuff
in it, and not of the stuffing.



xxiv INTRODUCTION

I venture to use the word "pinguid'* because I like the word
for its own sake and from association, my brother having endowed
me with it years ago; and also because, singularly enough, no
one seems to have come across it, not even professors. It
means fat. De Amicis uses it in his "Constantinople" where
he is amazed at the Pinguidine of the Turkish women. By the
time you have read this, you will all have been familiar with it
for years.

As it is better to be a little too early than too late, I think it as
well to put a last word first, and say at once that my friends will
be disappointed if they expect, in what follows, accounts of emi-
nent persons ; for while it is true that I have been asked once or
twice, "Why don't you write all these things?" the remark has
been made far oftener, since it transpired that I was a-writing,
"How interesting it will be to hear about the eminent persons
you have met!" As it is well to tell the truth, when not of the
nature of dynamite, I will say at once that so far as I am con-
cerned, I would rather spend an evening in the Century Club
than in the most brilliant court in Europe, and prefer a talk with
an old friend to an interview with such a man as Gladstone.
However, it is well not to antagonise the great, so I paddle my
little earthenware jar out of the track of these great ironclads by
admitting that I have found some of them very nice.

There is a good reason for this caution on my part, for I see
by my horoscope that I must be prepared for trouble, about the
time this book comes out. "You have little to fear from ene-
mies; though Neptune and Mars on the mid-heaven mean a
good deal of criticism, the criticism comes chiefly from jealous
enemies; with you, however, there is nothing to fear from ene-
mies, it is from friends that you have to fear trouble." Now this



INTRODUCTION xxv

is truly deplorable for a man who counts on his friends as much as
I do; still, with Taurus in the ascendant, and being a "child of
Venus," I will try to bear up. After all, these troubles merely
come from "Lunar aspects," operative for a few months, whereas
the "Solar aspects," are influential for many years. "Why"
adds the astrologer, " this is as propitious a horoscope as that of
Mr. C. Arthur Pearson," which seems in his eyes to settle
the business.
Wonderful ! Wonderful ! However did he find all this out ?

V. ends his prefaces but goes on. These things
are written as I would talk to a friend over a glass of wine after
dinner, or in the snug corner of some tavern. I sometimes come
to the "Don't you remember," and sometimes show him how
well I could talk an I were so disposed and sometimes come
to the "strictly between ourselves," and "let this go no further."
At first I intended to revise these digressions, but finding I could
not revise the life from which they sprang I gave up the idea
of revising these faint reflexes of it. So I give them just as they
were written, and for what they are worth. It may well be that
a man venturing into a realm unknown should feel some modest
doubts as to the result of his venture, but I beg my friends not
to be alarmed. 1 am like that Hindoo god who sat in placid con-
templation of his navel for just one thousand years. At the end
of that period he raised his head and said gently: "I see no-
thing the matter with that navel ; that navel is all right." I am
the Indian god and the book is the navel ; the book is all right.
Did I not say in another preface that I would give you an exhibi-
tion of good old-fashioned vanity ? Here you have it.

I seem a trifle unfortunate in my reading at times. This very



xxvi INTRODUCTION

moment I found the following passage in a beautiful exposition
of the Book of Job. Speaking of Elihu, the writer says : " He takes
fifty-two lines to say he is going to speak; a curious, zig-zag
metre admirably reflects his struggles between nervousness and
a growing enthusiasm for his cause. At last he settles to his argu-
ment." This seems somewhat appropriate, but, considering the
name, is very personal. In settling to my argument I frankly
give up all pretence to style; for me to attempt it would be as
useless as it would be ridiculous. This book is the work of an
unpractised hand with unfamiliar tools ; but it has the great ad-
vantage of leaving the reader free from preoccupation regarding
style, so he may browse undisturbed on such sense and salt as
he may find. If these also be lacking, it will be sad indeed, and
yet, even in that case, as the lesser misfortunes of others are
seldom without a spice of satisfaction to us (witness the wild
efforts of the man to catch his hat, in a high wind), the reader
may enjoy my wild chase after words with which to embody my
thought. Apropos of words, I frequently tell of the Frenchman
who disliked tomatoes. He said he was glad of it, for if he liked
them, he would eat them whereas he detested them. It is



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