George William Bagby.

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more. Grasping all the shafts of war, like fabled
Winkelried of old, she drove them into her breast,
and gave her body, her life, her soul, her all, to the
cause. Pardon me, I pray you pardon me, if I use
the only fitting words when I say, " she saved others ;
herself she could not, she would not, save." And yet,
ploughed, torn, harried, swept by fire and sword,
vanquished, dismembered, destroyed, she won and



52 THE OLD VIRGINIA GENTLEMAN.

wears, wears now, such honor and glory as beggar
the North, though it were piled with California in-
gots till the gold dislodged the polar star.

Think tenderly of Yirginia, O North, for she is
the sepulchre of your brave. Think tenderly of Yir-
ginia, O South, for her soil is saturated with the
blood of your sons. Speak tenderly, Historic Muse,
of Yirginia, for in her chaste breast is built the-
mausoleum of American liberty. And thou, O Time,
seal up the book of the record of the deeds of her
sons, place it high and safe upon the shelf of the
eternities, that in after ages, when men shall come
again to know God and his best earthly image
Honor they may take down the volume and read
with kindling eyes and emulous, heaving breast the
lesson of duty, devotion to principle and self-sur-
render the lesson of that alone which ennobles man
and lifts him almost level with his Maker.

But some one will say, " Yirginia is not dead ; she
only sleepeth." Nay, not so. Of a truth, she is
dead. Let no false hope or dream mislead you.
Baronial Yirginia is dead. Ilium, nor Carthage, nor
Thebes is more so. Go over the land as I have
gone, and you will see what I have seen. There is
no mistaking, no possible mistaking.

When I remember all Yirginia was, what she is,,
and what she is to be, I see passing down, down deep
into the vale of shadows, Love and Despair, bathed
both in tears, locked in embrace never to be broken,
and Death, with trailing scythe, following humbly
after. And faint as any whisper or sigh of soul for-



THE OLD VIRGINIA GENTLEMAN. 53

lorn there comes from the valley of shadows that
truest Psalm of Lost Life, the song of " HOME, SWEET
HOME," a breath and it is gone. And still from
the lower deeps, where love and despair and death
have all vanished, there is borne back, so faint that
only thought can hear it, the old, old refrain

" Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home."

And yet again there cornes, no longer a cry or a
sigh, but the dumb murmur of lips that shall make
appeal nevermore

" An exile from home, splendor dazzles in vain,
OhTgiv&me back my lowly thatched cottage again."

It may not be ; it may not ever be. Omnipotence
itself brings not back the past. A land mighty,
populous, and rich, fabulously rich, is to come, other
and beautiful homes there will be, but not the Vir-
ginia homes we have known. The contrasts are
gone no deep shades to the high lights no accom-
paniment to the air no black keys to the piano-
forte all, all a dead death-pale dirty level. Let the
night wind sigh through the thin leaves of the dying
locusts, let the many-voiced bird make mockery in
the bush of thorns, the owl hoot from the dark woods,
the wan moon look down on the deserted garden, and
the lack-lustre sun glare through the sick and trem-
bling aspens on the old house rotting to its fall for
the homes that we have known and loved the dear,
dear homes, we shall not know again. No more !
no more ! no more ! " Lochaber no more !"



54: THE OLD VIRGINIA GENTLEMAN.

In the realm of mind, and in a temple fashioned
not by human hands a temple more durable than
adamant as that outlasts the mists of dawn in that
palace of the past, that citadel of light that o'ertops
all time there dwell two bright and glorious spirits.
Twice ten hundred years they have dwelt there.
Tall and faultless in every feature, perfect from
golden helm to ivory sandal, Pallas Athene beholds
the matchless work of her children in art, in verse,
in history, in philosophy. Near her, darker of hue,
stronger in limb and feature, and of lower stature,
but majestic still and mighty beyond the might of all
who have come after, great Roma, mother of the
Caesars, looks forth upon the imperishable walls of
her builders and the mightier masonary of her law-
givers in every civilized land. And see, oh ! see,
even while I speak, beside these two rise a third,
more beautiful than either, for the light of Bethle-
hem's star is on her brow, more than one thorn from
the crown of thorns has pierced her temples fair, no
shame of Phryne or of Sappho is on her pallid cheek,
no blood of Colosseum or Circus Maximus stains her
palms', but only the unexampled purity of her tran-
sient life and the loveliness of her faith sanctify her
martyred beauty. She, too, beholds, in prophetic
vision, the work of her hands in time in cities and
in States that are and are to come ; in freedom, full,
complete, enduring, yet to be achieved beholds, and
is content.

And she is dead. Dead f Thank God she is
dead ! Lifted high above all hap of chance or



THE OLD VIRGINIA GENTLEMAN. 55

change ; safe, for ever safe from soil, or taint, or
blight, or blame throned in uncontaminable ether,
the virgin mother of peoples, immaculate, immortal.
Virginia ! our mother, our own mother, if we for-
get thee if we ever forget thee may our souls be
forgotten of their God.



JOHN M. DANIEL'S LATCH-KEY.



A MEMOIR OF THE LATE EDITOE OF THE KICHMOND EXAMINEE.



PKEFACE.

In December, 1867, soon after the publication of the " Latch -
Key" in the Native Virginian, I visited the city of Richmond,
and, while there, was convinced that I had made, unwittingly, two
decided errors: First, John M. Daniel did not write "The Par-
liament of Beasts." The real author is known, but his name is
withheld for sufficient reasons. Second, the walk to Petersburg
was made, not for the purpose of lending, but of paying money
which the Editor of the Examiner had collected for his friend,
the then artist Peticolas. This I learned from the diary which
Daniel kept at that time, and which Mr. T. H. Wynne has now in
his possession. In respect of other matters of fact, I believe the
Memoir is substantially correct.

February 18, 1868.

SOME days ago I found, in an old drawer, the
latch-key which the editor of the Richmond Ex-
aminer gave me in 1863. It fitted the door of the
house on Broad street, opposite the African church
the house in which he died. A bit of brass, differing
in nothing from others of its kind, this key, never-
theless, has its charm. It is* the only souvenir I have
of one of the most remarkable men Virginia ever pro-
duced. Coming upon it unexpectedly, after I had
given it up as lost, the bare sight of it crowded my



57

mind, in an instant, with pictures of its former owner.
I saw him in Washington, just after his return from
Europe, conversing with Seddon and Garnett ; in his
own room over the Examiner office, as he sat lord-
like, in a high arm-chair, in August, 1861, question-
ing me about the battle of Manassas and exhibiting
;the major's uniform which he intended to wear as
aid to General Floyd ; in the editorial room, cutting
and slashing leaders which had been written for him,
or denouncing fiercely the Administration; at his
dinner-table, pledging Wigfall and Hughes in a glass
of old Madeira ; in the bed, where he lay wounded,
after the duel with Elmore ; and last of all, I saw his
marble face how changed ! as he lay in his metallic
coffin, March the 31st, 1865.

All these likenesses of this strange man came viv-
idly before me as I looked at the key of his door,
and with them came a host of recollections, some of
which I am now about to set down. Not that I have
anything to tell which others could not tell as well,
or better than myself. For it must not be inferred,
because he gave me the privilege of entering his
house at any hour of the day or night that pleased
me, that I was the intimate personal friend of John
M. Daniel. No ; he took a short-lived fancy to me,
and gave me his latch-key ; that is all. While the
fancy lasted I used the key but seldom, and after it
died out, not at all. Doubtless he soon forgot that he
had ever given it to me. My aim is simply to put
down, in chronological order, a number of incidents
,and sayings illustrative of the character of one who.



58

in some respects, resembled John Randolph, of
Roanoke, and who, like Randolph, was of a nature
so peculiar that the most trivial reminiscences can
hardly fail to prove interesting to hundreds of
thousands in the South, and to not a few in the
North.

My acquaintance with him began in Washington,,
after his return from Turin. He registered his name
at Brown's Hotel, in a small hand, simply as "Mr.
Daniel, Liverpool." Although I had never seen a
scrap of his writing, I knew, the moment I saw his
name on the register, that the man for whom so
many were anxiously looking, had arrived. The next
evening I was introduced to him. I had long been,
curious to see " the great editor," and availing myself
of his animated conversation with other visitors, eyed
him intently, seeking in the outward man some indi-
cation of the extraordinary being within. My search
was not in vain. The poorest physiognomist could
not have seen Daniel's face, even for a moment, with-
out being attracted I am tempted to say fascinated
by it. True, we always find what we are taught
to expect in a face, and often discover what does not
exist ; but here was a countenance singularly marked
a dark, refined, decidedly Jewish face. The nose
was not very large, and but slightly aquiline; the-
mouth thin-lipped, wide, unpleasing, and overhung
by a heavy black moustache ; the chin square, but not
prominent; the cheeks thin; and both cheeks and
chin covered by a dense, coarse, jet-black, closely-
trimmed beard; eye-brows very thick and black,



JOHN M. DANIEL'S LATCH-KEY. 5

shading deep-set, rather small hazel eyes; head as
small as Byron's or Brougham's, beautifully shaped
and surmounted by masses of hair, which in youth
hung long and lank and black to his coat-collar, but
in later life was worn close-cut. Such was John M.
Daniel, as he sat before me in a room at Brown's
Hotel, in the memorable winter of 1861.

He was richly but plainly dressed. He talked
freely upon the topics then uppermost in every
Southern mind, but there was a hesitation, or rather
a tripping, amounting almost to a stammer, in his
speech the result, probably, of his long residence
abroad and the constant use, in conversation, of
French or Italian instead of the English language.
This tripping had entirely disappeared when I met
him, a few months later, in Richmond. It was not
an affectation, as I had at first supposed.

During a number of interviews which I had with
him in Washington, he was always courteous, good
natured and talkative. His moroseness, his bitter-
ness, of which I had heard so much, seemed to
have been dissipated by the genial climate of Italy
and the polite atmosphere of courts. One night,
however, Floyd's name being mentioned in con-
nection with the affair of the Indian Trust Bonds,
some reckless person took it upon himself to say that
in the public opinion the then Secretary of War was
" no better than a thief." Daniel flamed instantly.
He rose from his chair with a white face and with
trembling lips, and denounced the charge against
Gov. Floyd as an accursed slander. In proof that



Floyd had not appropriated to his own use one cent
of the public funds, he stated a fact, not to be men-
tioned here, which seemed to carry conviction to all
who heard it. He was very much agitated ; his pas-
.sionate nature so overmastered him that he could not,
although he tried to resume his calmness, and the
party soon dispersed from the room.

During his .stay in Washington, which lasted two or
three weeks, I met him but once after this exciting
scene. He was then in Mr. Seddon's room, convers-
ing with that distinguished member of the Peace
Congress, and with the Hon. M. R. H. Garnett.
Late English publications, relating to Continental
and British politics, were under discussion, and
Daniel showed himself perfectly familiar with every
book or pamphlet which the other gentleman had
read. Little was said so long as I was present about
Federal politics. It cannot, however, be doubted
that the Yirginia editor was in the intimate counsels
of the leaders of the southern movement, and that,
while he gave them the benefit of his eminently clear
intellect, he in turn was enabled by their information
and opinions to post himself thoroughly on all those
points which were shortly to be brought before the
public in the columns of the improved and, for the
first time, Daily Examiner.

The potent influence of this paper, from the mo-
ment that Daniel resumed the helm, was felt not only
in Yirginia, but throughout the entire South. To
this day, the effect of a single article, which appeared
& few weeks after the Examiner began to be issued



61

daily, is remembered by almost every man, woman
and child in Virginia. I allude, of course, to " The
Parliament of Beasts/' in which the members of the
Virginia Convention, then in session, were likened
to dogs, cats, owls, opossums, and other members of
the animal kingdom. The likenesses were so hap-
pily and so trenchantly drawn that it was impossible
to mistake them, and many hundreds, if not thou-
sands, of copies of the issue containing the article
were sold in a few hours. Some offence was given,
but so much humor, and wit so genuine were min-
gled with the satire, that the Union men, who were
most offended, were obliged to join in the laugh at
their own caricatures. " Who is the author ?" was
in everybody's mouth. This question was never sat-
isfactorily answered. The article appeared as a con-
tribution, but in editorial type, and the great major-
ity of people suspected that Daniel himself was the
author. This, however, was denied, and many con-
jectures were made as to the man, in or out of Vir-
ginia, who was capable of doing so clever a thing.
Two years or more after its appearance, while sitting
alone with Daniel, I asked him to tell me in confi-
dence who the real author was. He was pacing the
floor of his sanctum, as was his wont. He stopped
abruptly, put his hands in his pockets, turned his
face towards me and said, with the utmost gravity :

" No one knows better than yourself who wrote
that article."

"Nonsense," I replied; " I really want to know.
Tell me. I pledge you my word that I will never



62

reveal the secret until you give me permission to do

.60."

lie looked keenly at me, as if to ascertain whether
I could be trusted, and for a moment I felt sure that
lie was going to tell me ; but turning suddenly on his
heel, he began again to pace the floor in silence. He
refused to tell me even the author of the paraphrase
in verse, which appeared some time after the original.
I have scarcely a doubt but that he himself wrote the
original in prose, and I think I can make a very good
guess as to the authorship of the poetic version. The
latter I attribute to the same hand which penned
"Fie! Memminger," and similar articles in rhyme,
which were printed in the Examiner during the years
1864-'65.

In May, 1861, I went to Manassas with the first
battalion sent thither from Richmond. No sooner
was I upon the ground than I felt, as by prescience,
rather than by any comprehension of the strategic
value of the position, that the place was to be the
scene of a great battle ; and shortly afterwards, with

the aid of my friend, Lieut. L , embodied my

views and apprehensions in an article of considerable
length, which I sent to the Examiner no order to
the contrary having then been issued. Daniel
thought it imprudent to publish the article, but was
so pleased with it that he continued to send me, as
long as I remained at Manassas, five copies of his
daily paper. He also offered me my own price for
any letters I might choose to write him. Even had
it been lawful, I could not have accepted his propo-



63

-sition, for the reason that the fatigues of incessant
drilling left me little inclination and less ability to
write even to my own father. But the prompt
recognition of the little service I had rendered him
a promptness which, as I afterwards discovered,
was characteristic of Daniel and doubtless a good
deal of gratified vanity at the estimate he had placed
on my contribution, impelled me to call on him as
soon as I reached Richmond, in August, after the
great battle.

He was then living in two rooms, handsomely
fitted up, in the second story of the Examiner build-
ing. The front room he used as a bed chamber, the
back room as a sanctum and a hall of audience for
his many visitors. In the latter were a number of
easy chairs; and one in particular, which he pre-
ferred above all the rest. It was a sort of barber's
chair, covered with horse hair, and elevated much
more than ordinary chairs above the floor. From
this seat, as from a throne, he looked down upon
and conversed with his visitors; and to me at least,
(I know not how it was with others,) his words de-
scended from their elevation with a certain authority,
as from a true cathedra.

The day was warm, and the editorial Pontiff was
by no means in his robes of office. He wore neither
coat nor vest, only a pair of white duck pantaloons.
He looked spotlessly clean, cool and comfortable.
His reception was kind, almost to cordiality. He
talked freely about the war, about the generals, and
the plans of campaign, but was very guarded in his



64:

comments upon the Administration, which, up to
this time, he had heartily supported. Indeed, the
Examiner was, for many months after the war began,
regarded as the organ of the Administration. Full
of his expected campaign with Floyd, he told me,
with an air of satisfaction, how he intended to be
comfortable and to escape the tilth and misery of
camp life. He was going en grand tenue with a
chest stored with the good things of this life, a tent
of his own fashioning, a complete cooking apparatus,
his own cook and his own valet.

I asked him if he had no fear of being killed or
wounded. He replied that he did not think he
would be killed, and that the chances were that he
would not be wounded. "I hate pain," said he; "I.
cannot bear it, and yet I should like to be able to
show an honorable scar in this cause." His cam-
paign in southwestern Virginia was not of long
duration. I am satisfied, from what he afterwards
told me, that he joined Gen. Floyd, not for a holiday,
but with the purpose of winning military glory. He
was ambitious in everything he undertook, and on:
more than one occasion he expressed to me a great
regret at having left the army. "By this time,"
(the winter of 1864,) said he, "I might have been a
brigadier perhaps a major-general."

"But," said I, "as the editor of the Examiner, '
you are exerting an influence far greater than any
brigadier greater perhaps than any major-general."

" True," he answered ; " but what good is the Ex-
aminer, or any other paper, or all the papers in the



65

Confederacy combined, doing? Besides, I like to
command men. I love power."

After the interview in August, 1861, I saw very
little of him for two years. I met him occasionally
on the street, but his manner was so repelling that I
was deterred from gratifying the desire, which I often
felt, of going to see him. With his old habits had
come back his old ways he was as cold, self-con-
tained and gloomy as he had been before he went to
Europe. Affairs were not going in the fashion that
suited him. Grave doubts were beginning to arise
in his mind. He still had hopes, and often high
hopes, of the success of the cause, but the course of
the Administration excited continually the bitterness
of his nature. Then, again, the whole weight of the
Examiner, which, he frequently described to me " as
a mill-stone about his neck,' 1 was upon him. Con-
vinced that his editorial labors were well nigh use-
less, in so far as they influenced the conduct of the
war, the finances, or anything else pertaining to the
policy of Mr. Davis, it was but natural that his
mental energies should flag and his wonderful powers
of composition should be abated. He was anxious
to get an assistant, but could find no one to suit him.
He had fallen out with one whose brilliant and
humorous pen had served him so well in former
years. Edward A. Pollard was in ill health, and
had started, or was about to start, for Europe, and
he had not succeeded in getting the two or three
writers, whose contributions, a few months later,,
5



66

added so greatly to the value and the interest of the
Examiner.

It was at this time, in the summer of 1863, while
on a visit to the country, that I amused myself one
evening by writing a satirical article on the then
exciting subject of the removal of the Quartermaster
General. This I sent to Daniel. What was my sur-
prise by return mail, to receive from B. F. Walker,
the manager of the Examiner, a flattering letter,
telling me of Daniel's high appreciation of my article,
and his desire to secure my services as assistant edi-
tor. An engagement on another paper prevented
me from accepting the proffered situation ; moreover
I knew well that Daniel was a " hard master." Never-
theless, I was anxious to see in print an article which
had received the approval of such a critic as John M.
Daniel. I looked each day, but never saw it. I
own that I felt chagrined. My only conclusion was
that Daniel, at a first reading, had overestimated the
merits of the article, and that a subsequent perusal,
revealing faults which he had not before detected,
had determined him not to publish it.

On my return to Richmond, I felt little desire to
meet any of the Examiner people ; but passing Walker
one day on the street, he hailed me and told me to
come to the office; he had some money for me.

"Money for what?" I inquired.

" For that article you sent down. Don't you re-
member it?"

"I remember it distinctly, but I also remember
that you never printed it."



JOHN M. DANIEL'S LATCH-KEY. 67

Walker was positive that the article had been
printed, and I no less positive that it had not. Finally
he referred me to Mr. Daniel, and to him, accord-
ingly, I went. He received me kindly, compli-
mented my article extravagantly, as I thought, and
asked me if Walker had paid me for it. I was a
good deal nettled, supposing that he was making fun
of me. I told him in reply, that Walker had offered
to pay me much more than the article was worth, ac-
cording to the established rates of the Examiner
(which I knew), but that I had refused payment on
the ground that the article had never appeared. His
eye twinkled mischievously, as he said :

" You didn't see it, because you didn't read the
Examiner. The Examiner contains the best thoughts
of the best minds in the Confederacy, expressed in
the best manner it is the organ of the thinking
gentlemen of the country. You ought by all means
to read it. There is the file ; look at the number for
, and you will find your article."

I looked, and sure enough, there was an article
twice as long and twice as good as the one I had
written my own ideas, but so enveloped in Daniel's
fine English, and so amplified that it was hard to re-
cognize them.

I have purposely related this incident at some
length, because it illustrates Daniel's character and
unfolds one of the secrets of his great success as an
editor. He begrudged no labor in elaborating and
improving an article which pleased r him. I remem-
ber his telling me that he had written a certain



68

article over four or five times. The original draft
was sent to him by a lady distinguished for her at-
tainments and performances in literature. It was a
defence of his favorite general. He was gallant to
a degree and the warmest of partisans ; and both his
gallantry and his friendship being aroused, he exerted
himself to the utmost to make the article as printed
a telling one. If I am not mistaken, I have this
identical article now in my possession. It is headed,,
O he! jam. satis.

Although I would not accept the place of assis-
tant, and could by no means have filled it to his
satisfaction if I had, I was glad enough, in order to
eke out my narrow living, to enter into an engage-
ment to furnish him with two or three editorials a
week an engagement which lasted for several
months. It was at this time that he gave me his
latch-key and I became somewhat intimate with him.



Online LibraryGeorge William BagbySelections from the miscellaneous writings of Dr. George W. Bagby (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 27)