Elihu Vedder.

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fine. This must have happened about the first time I met these
interesting young men. But Josephus told me that previously
he had written a beautiful play entitled the "Esmerald Fay,"
which made its appearance under the name of the "Green
Monkey." Its first was also its last night. I can only remember
his murmuring sometimes this line, " Let us dance to the sound
of rustical roundelays." He said it was a portion of the play.

On one of my returns home with a venture of pictures, I ex-
hibited them in rooms I had taken in Union Square. Hitchie
had been ill and unsuccessful ; he was getting a little better, but
was not the Hitchie of old days. The delight of seeing me, the
pleasure of helping me hang my pictures, seemed to make an-


other man of him. You see, he loved and admired me with all
his heart, and most fully that love was returned. One day, just
as he was leaving the house, of course to come to me, he
was struck down. The poor old boy for he was always a boy
seemed sleeping ; perhaps it was better so. The tears shed at
that funeral came from the Heart.

In the time of the Commune in Paris, a poor lady on the verge
of perishing through starvation saved her life by sacrificing her
pet dog. As she was mournfully assuaging the pangs of hunger
on the remains, she remarked sadly, " Poor Fido how he
would have enjoyed these bones ! " And that is the way I feel
while writing these reminiscences ; they were primarily written for
those who can now no longer enjoy them. At long intervals I
return to " the Club " with hopes high burning, but am warned
by the flag at half-mast that some friend, "past-master" in my
affection, may now be but a past-half-master. It may be foolish,
but I cannot help believing that they will still be pleased by a
mention poor, dear ghosts.

And so I read in the reports of the "Association" that my dear
friend Antonio has also gone ; and looking over the long list I see
that he is in good company. The gentle and lordly Antonio. The
short obituaries are all that they should be, but our friends' little
foibles and peculiarities are left out things that the public has
nothing to do with, but which endeared them all the more to us
and made them more human. Antonio, although habitually
frequenting the great, such as publishers, editors, and engravers,
to us the important people of those days, was yet very much with
us, and we all noticed that when he became merry he became all
the more stately, until, when the merriment was at its height, it


got to be with him, "Yes, sir," or " Yes, madam," which made
his unbendings the more remarkable. And so it happened that
when one Saturday night we all repaired in a body to some one's
house in New Jersey, "mighty merry," the good wife of that
some one had to fly about and get extra rations for the hilarious
crowd. But bless you, they did n't mind for were they not
good Boys also ? Then it was that the servant brought in a great
plate of samp, just as Antonio was at his primmest, whereupon
he broke into a silly smile and sang the then popular song of the
day with a slight variation :

" Samp, samp, samp, the Boys are marching,
Cheer up, comrades, they will come ! "

and Andy had the honours of the evening.

In Beekman Street and its vicinity the wood-engravers held
high revel, and of course the boxwood men those who pre-
pared the beautiful and far too smooth boxwood blocks on
which the artists were condemned to draw also abounded.
One of these last-mentioned persons, a cheerful, clean-looking
young fellow, asked me on one occasion when I had gone to him
for my blocks: "What's become of X. Y. ? I hear he has been
tampering with pictures."

Now X. Y., whatever were his merits as an engraver, was a
man of very refined tastes and really a good judge of pictures.
He was a sort of artistic centre in himself, and always had the
Boys in of an evening, and it was as Hopkinson Smith would
say "Help yourself; the tobacco is in the yellow jar." He
knew all the artists. These were the days of George Broughton's
beautiful little winter twilights with people skating on ponds.
Also by correspondence he kept the Boys posted of each other's


movements, so that if Britcher was painting in Valley Conway,
you knew through X. Y. just where Britcher was. He was far
from rich at first, but the artists were generous, and so, between
pictures obtained at very moderate prices and those presented
to him, he formed quite a collection of desirable little works.
I remember a fine portrait of Elliot, by himself, a present to
X. Y. One day he made a most successful sale of the whole lot
but unfortunately arrived too late to withdraw the portrait
of his friend. With this money he went direct to Paris, bought
with his good judgement all the best French pictures he could,
came back, disposed of them, and went back to Paris and
bought more pictures. And thus did Job all the days of his
life and became a millionaire. Of course he made exceptions in
favour of American artists whose works were sure to sell. And
others followed his example and thus, by showing us the best
French art, they so fostered and encouraged the growth of art " in
our midst" that even some American artists began in a modest
way to dispose of their works, and the dealers became powerful,
and we always drank their respective healths at our meetings.

There were good and bad ones among those dealers. I remem-
ber a talented young fellow standing like a whipped cur before
one S. K. while the latter told him the kind of thing he ought
to paint, and got the picture which the poor fellow had brought
under his arm, for a mere song. Tampering ? I should say so.

There was another tamperer a certain H. He also had the
foaming jug or spicy punch set out by the cheerful fire in winter,
and also formed his collection pretty much as X. Y. had. Being
an Englishman, he went to London, and here the likeness to X. Y.
ceases, for H. did not return, but on the contrary remained in
London where he set up a very successful pot-house ; for, strange


to say, on one of my rare visits to London the first person I met
was H., who told me himself this about the pot-house and asked
me to come and see him in his new surroundings. All this was
long ago, and so, like my Aunt Eveline, "I make no comment."

There once appeared in " Punch " a wood-cut representing
two writers conversing affably as they walked along. One was
a tragic, the other a comic author, and the point was the con-

trast presented by the two men ; for while Tragedy was repre-
sented by a stout, jolly little fellow, Comedy was embodied in a
long, lank, and most melancholy individual in fact just such
a looking man as was our friend Frank Bellew. Old readers
of "Vanity Fair" will remember seeing his name always written
in a triangle.

One day he came into my room much depressed: Saturday
was near and he had nothing ready. However, he pulled out
a scrap of drawing, saying, " I wonder if the fellows up at the
office will take this." It was entitled "The Thoughtful Parent,"
or something like it, and represented an eagle returning
to its nest with a lamb in one of its hooked hands and a cruet


of mint sauce in the other. The Boys were delighted, and he
was told to get his money and treat the young ravens at home
to precisely the same fare spring lamb and mint sauce. Which,
by the way, now that I remember, was the title of the sketch.

I have always thought that Plutarch's way of putting his heroes
in double harness, as it were, was a very arbitrary proceeding ;
yet in the case of two brothers I knew, that treatment seems in-
dicated. I allude to Sol and Carolus Corinthius. I call them so
from a proud curl of the lip which had more to do with Palestine
than with Holland, although in later historic times the family was
known to have come from the latter country. The difference be-
tween the Turveydrops was that while one had port, the other
had presence, and this well describes the difference between the
two brothers ; for while Carolus was a model of deportment, Sol
contented himself and friends with his presence. I can remember
C/s cuffs and almost some of the things he said ; but of Sol I can-
not remember a thing he ever said, but remember his effulgence ;
for while Walt Whitman used to sit with his beard and open collar
and hairy breast and beam upon the Boys, his beams remained on
the outside of you ; whereas Sol's radiance permeated you through
and through, so that I have often thought that among the shades
in Hades where Sol is it can never be quite dark.

If I have put Sol and Carolus together, Mullin must stand
alone, for Mullin was "a holy terror" at least so he was
described by good little Miss Van Dusen with whom he once
boarded. She was contrasting him with Mr. Tom Placide the
actor, who had occupied the same room "a perfect gentleman,
and so neat." Mullin was anything but neat, except in the
matter of whiskey: he always took that neat. For one who treated
himself so generously to that article, he was singularly abstemious


with regard to his friends, for he never treated any one but once,
and that happened in this way:

Mullin, meeting that best of painters, Winslow Homer, was
asked by the latter if he would have a drink. This jumping with
Mullin's usual mood, he accepted at once. Homer then explained
that he had tickets for drinks at Hanbury Smith's, which was then
the very fountain-head of mineral waters in Broadway. Mullin,
who never drank water, took Saratoga High Rock, as he told
me himself, and it gave him the stomach-ache, but he said no-
thing and bided his time. It came. He met H., and inviting
him to take a drink, led him to an apothecary's, where he said
to the clerk: "My friend wants a drink. Will you please give
him a drink of castor oil."

If Mullin treated himself well to whiskey, he treated himself
badly enough in other respects, judging by his appearance when
he turned up after an absence. He was frequently absent. Once
Hitchie.and I got him into a hospital and bought him under-
clothing, and in fact did the good Samaritan. I remember the
Irish nurse saying as he stripped him to rub his back: "It's
a fine back ye have, Mister Mullin, to wrastle with the fever,
thanks be to God ! " He had been one of Walker's filibusters,
and, strange to say, although he was ever on the verge of a fight,
I never remember to have seen him in one.

But speaking of the Irish nurse reminds me of an Irish
waiter. Once when Mullin was eating (he never dined) with
Fitz Hugh O'Brien, the latter called to the waiter, asking him
to bring him a plate for his bones. This was too much for the
democratic Mullin. "A plate for your bones, forsooth! What
frills be these? since when, I pray?" As every Irish gentle-
man has another Irish gentleman to black his boots for him,


the waiter at once bristles up : " An' why not, Mr. Mullin ? every
Irish gentleman always has a plate for his bones." This was
the same waiter who, on my going in very early in the morning,
must have simply thrown some hot water on the coffee-grounds of
the night before and brought the mixture to me as a cup of coffee.
" By Jove ! " I said, " this is the worst coffee I Ve ever tasted."
"Well, it is a little dilicate," he admitted.

It may be imagined that Mullin's hand was unsteady, but by
concentrating his will and taking good aim he managed to hit
the spot every time ; and being a good artist this very unsteadi-
ness gave a delightful freedom and a style of his own to his draw-
ings, which were veritable little gems and offered the greatest
contrast to the drawings of all about him. Very late one gloomy
night I was going down the Bowery ; where I was going or what I
was going to do when I got there, God only knows, but so it was.
Standing On the rear platform of the car I saw Mullin, who was
absolutely unconscious of the presence of any one known to him.
He stood there in gloom. A boy was whistling softly beside him.
Turning to the boy, Mullin said : "I wish you would n't whistle."
"Why?" said the boy. "It always makes me sad."
"Then I'll whistle you something cheerful." -"No, please;
don't whistle any."

How he died or when he died I never knew. He simply faded
out of my life ; yet I would very much like to hunt up in the
pages of "Vanity Fair" those forgotten gems of his. But what
for ? He has n't been dead long enough yet.

Somewhere in the South Sea a ship's carpenter had lost a
saw and went about complaining and saying that that saw stuck
in his gizzard ; whereupon a native sailor rushed to the captain

"V." IN 1864


with the news that the carpenter had found his saw. The captain
asked him where he had found it, to which the native replied :
"He say it stick in his gizzard." All this that follows I know I
have written and lost, but it sticks in my crop, and the only way
I can get it out is by rewriting the whole thing, which I hate to
do, but will.

It is about a set of false teeth. The Clairvoyant talked a great
deal and talked well, so his teeth were always in evidence,
and they being very bad and giving him no end of trouble, in his
impulsive way he had all the upper front ones pulled out. This,
causing his upper lip to fall in, gave him an appearance of age
combined with youth. He increased the impression of age by
imitating the chortling of an old man, to our great delight. He
soon had a set made, but they would fall out, or oftener he
would take them out, and then descant at great length on the
comfort of being toothless, which he asserted amply made up
for all the pain of having them drawn. This he did to the amuse-
ment of a crowd on a Hoboken ferryboat one evening. Of all
the gloomy things on earth, give me the Hoboken ferry in win-
ter ; say the end of a cold day after a rain, when the boat is
ploughing her way through the broken ice coming down the
Hudson, and the pallor of twilight from the distant Jersey shore
gleams along the wet deck. It was on such an evening, when
all the passengers had drawn back under the roof among the
wagons, thus leaving the broad deck free, that the Clairvoyant
held forth on the subject of his false teeth. Suddenly stepping
forward with the offending teeth in hand, he stooped and threw
them skittling and glistening across the wet deck off into the
swirling waves. It was a great success.

I have a suspicion that I have said all these things before.


If my surmise proves correct, all is not lost, as an example of how
a tale can be varied by the same person shows how much
reliance can be placed on the testimony of witnesses.

The Clairvoyant was so called from his assertion that the
prominence of his eyes enabled him to see a fly on the back of
his neck. His brother Carolus had a dark rolling eye which
came in magnificently during his Shakespearean readings which
he gave in his snug home up-town. These were always followed
by a supper which the Boys called the reparation. And such is the
ingratitude of human nature that even while he was pouring
forth the ample volume of his sonorous voice and shooting off his
snowy cuffs, whispers were heard, breathing the hope that he
would make an end of his damnable faces and begin the
reparation understood.

Am I having fun at the expense of my old friends ? Were I
the funniest man in creation I could not begin to make the fun
that this remarkable family made of each other. The invalid
in his wheeled chair was always called "the Cripple," and "You
idiot" was but the prelude of any communication between them ;
and yet they loved each other and admired and stuck by each
other. Better I have seen, but none have I loved more.

How the Clairvoyant with ever-renewed hope followed those
constantly rising bubbles filled with fair schemes of sudden
wealth, only to see them burst one after the other, was a marvel.
He was a promoter without money, and his capitalists usually
were as badly provided, but, being cautious, mostly retired in
time. Companies were formed with a Board of Directors, prem-
ises hired and gorgeously fitted up ; studios for experiment, ex-
hibiting in the case of colour-printing the most prismatic displays
of wasted colour ; but when the inaugural festivities were term-


inated, with the last glass of champagne disappeared the last
of the funds, and the bubble burst and the company went into

But he was good, poor boy! I will first skirmish a bit with
a few preliminaries and then tell how good he was. Long after
the days of the struggle, in that period of modified struggle
which has lasted to this day, on a visit home my wife and
children camped out in the Gilsey Building opposite the Brevoort
House, in a studio on the upper floor. It was a low building,
surviving in Broadway, a veritable matchbox. The San Fran-
cisco Minstrels were on one side and the little Union Square
Theatre on the other, and we lived always in fear of fire. One
night previous to the family's coming, I think I must have saved
the porter's life, for Mike, the Irish janitor, had been eating plen-
tifully of cucumbers, the first of the season, things I could n't
afford, and was taken with a fearful congestive chill, and his
wife came to me in a wild state of fear and tears, begging me to
save him. I dressed and rushed for a doctor, and found a good
young fellow. I told him through a speaking-tube which led up
to his floor, what I thought must be the matter, and so he came
with me provided with the necessary syringe for hypodermic
injections, and we pulled Mike through, although I thought
he was little better than a dead man when first I saw him. All
this to show why his wife was grateful and how she helped us out
of a little difficulty which occurred shortly after.

One night we were out calling; the children were at a front
window on Broadway looking at the crowded streets and the
people leaving the theatre and the minstrel show, when one of
them shoved off the window-ledge a siphon of seltzer fully
charged, which on reaching the sidewalk exploded like a bomb.


By great good fortune no one was killed by its fall, but for a
moment there was a panic and the crowd gathered and stood
gazing up at the windows. The children were frightened, no
doubt, and quitting the window hid under a bed. Soon the
police came up and made the porter's wife open to them all the
rooms on the front of the building. She delayed coming to our
room until the last, then, opening the door, assured the officers
that we were all out and that there was no one in the room. The
terror-stricken children meanwhile kept in their hiding-place
like frightened quails, and seeing the room empty, and over-
whelmed by the volubility of Biddy, the police left as wise as
they came. A miss is as good as a mile.

The rooms my good stepmother found for me were on the
corner of Bond Street and Broadway, and therefore near PfafFs.
As every question started in the Studio ended with, "Let's go
over to PfafFs," I became for a time one of the PfafT crowd of
Bohemians, as they were then called. Pfaff's was situated in a
basement, and the room under the sidewalk was the den where
writers and artists the latter mostly drawers on wood but not
drinkers of water met. There I saw Walt Whitman ; he had not
become famous yet, and I then regarded many of the Boys as his
superiors, as they did themselves. I really believe PfafT himself
loved the Boys. The time came when he retired to the country,
well off; but then the time also came when he returned and
started another place further up-town. I saw him in his new
place and asked him about it. He said he was well off, but that
he could not stand the country; he had to do something; but
then he said, " It is n't the same thing ; dere 's no more poys left
enny more." I have come to think that myself.


I must have been maturing slowly, very slowly, and
pranks continued to be the order of the day. For instance, one
night Josephus and it may have been Ritchie, it was so much
in his line made me get up in spite of its being very late, and
let them in. After indicating the tobacco and the bottle, I re-
tired to my little bedroom, begging them to let me sleep in peace,
which I did with a vague sense of much whispering and sup-
pressed laughter in the next room. They were gone in the morn-
ing, and had shut the door, although there was nothing to steal,
for pictures were not stolen in those days. But they had left
much for me to contemplate. Hanging from the gas-fixture in
the middle of the room was a large coil of new rope with a fine
slip-noose at the end. On the burners two nice tin hats and
a large bill of fare from some eating-house. Below, a splendid
milk-can with the owner's name in copper letters, and around
its neck a varied assortment a necklace, in fact of brass
door-knobs, bell-pulls and knockers. There may have been
other objects, but these are all I can remember. It took me a
week to get rid of the results of their midnight raid or foray.
Night after night I would shy, wrapped in paper, the smaller
objects up and down the street from my window; the tin hats
made a fine rumpus; the signs were burned; and the Irish care-
taker was very grateful for the milk-can, so good to keep bread
in, and the rope for a clothes-line. I did not like this lark at all,
especially as I had been left out ; but dear me, how differ-
ently I look on such things now, especially from the standpoint
of the householder. And yet I was then engaged on the picture
afterwards known as " The Questioner of the Sphinx."

George Arnold was one of the Boys. He lived near me and
used frequently to come and sit by me while I was painting.


I can recall his gentle, sad smile yet. Gentleness was his great
charm. We both lived near Pfaff's, and it was there he read me
his poem, shortly after it was written " Here I sit drinking my
beer." He died young ; I do not know of what he died, but he
seemed to be worn out even when I first met him. All the Boys
attended his funeral; there was but one woman. Who she was
and what she was made it all the more touching ; her grief was
honest and sincere. I do not think there went into that early
grave a great secret sorrow. He thought his life a wasted life ; it
was with him a gorgeous romance of youthful despair; but into
that grave went a tender charm, great talent, and great weakness.
God forgive me if I have misjudged him.

While living in these rooms near Pfaff's, a kindling-wood
man used to bring my kindling-wood, very naturally, for that
was his trade. One day when I was intent on a picture, he paused
on his way out and stood watching me paint. Finally he asked :
"How much do you get for such a little picture as that? " In
answering him I used diplomacy ; I did not say that I got what
I could, which was the truth, but said : " For such a picture I
ought to get about two hundred and fifty dollars." He drew in
his breath with a gasp ; then he walked to the door, turned, and
heaving a sigh, said: "Well; every man to his trade." I could
not help trying to imagine what must have passed through his
mind as he went to that door. First, wild surprise at this vision
of wealth; then a gleam of hope, and the thought- "Why
should not I also ? " - at once checked by an overwhelming
sense of his utter unfitness; then the sigh and the additional
thought perhaps after all every man had better stick to his

That reiteration about the kindling-wood man bringing up



kindling-wood makes me think of the loblolly hole on shipboard.
Some one asked: "What is the loblolly hole?'* and was told
it was the hole where the loblolly boy kept his loblolly, very

But to return to this trade idea. I have been told by those in
the trade that, as an illustrated book, the Omar Khayyam has
had a longer lease of life than any other book of its kind. I
happen to know that it yet sells, and have reason for being glad
of it. But I wonder why the book should sell. I am not alluding
to the poem that will always sell ; but is there something
wrong about the pictures something Tupperish that they
should have been so popular ? A fearful thought. It cannot be
the drawing in them, for plenty of men I do not say can, but at
least do, draw better; therefore that cannot be the attraction.
They take the mind, perhaps ? or do they touch the heart ?

Online LibraryElihu VedderThe digressions of V. → online text (page 14 of 29)