Frederick William Gookin.

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^^ H I Sr0 1{l' OF




i^ By Frederick William Gookix ^







IN large measure this history of The Chicago Literary
Club has been made up from the recollections of the
writer^ augmented by those of several of the early mem-
bers ivhose narrations have been built into it. No excuses^
therefore^ for the somewhat frequent use of the personal pro-
7WU71 in the recital^ need be offered. The account of the later
years should^ perhaps^ be more full; but conspicuous hap-
penings in these years have been comparatively few. They
have been years marked chiefly by sustained interest on the
part of the members^ by the excellence of the literary feast pro-
vided at the meetings^ by the steady maintenance of the spirit
of fellowship between the members^ and by the atmosphere that
this has created and which has been a distinguishing feature
of the club from its earliest days to the present time.

As the roll of members^ past and present^ shows that
resignations were sent in by no less than three hundred and
thirty -five of the eight hundred and seventy-seven whose names
appear upon the list., it may here be stated by way of expla-
nation^ that in a great majority of the cases the reason for
resigning was^for one cause or another^ inability to attend
the meetings. This prevented many from ever becomiyjg in
any real sense identified with the club: some of them did not
come to even a single yneeting., and it is not surprising that.,
after being enrolled for a year or two, or in some instances,
for ?nany years, they dropped out. In cojitrast to this show-
ing, the devotion of those who did become actively identified
with the club has been so constant that during the entire fifty


vi Foreword

years the attendance of members at meetings held once a week
save in the suminer months^ has always averaged more than
twenty-five per cent, oj the number of those on the resident
list. 'This is a record that must be regarded as extraordinary
when the facts are taken into consideration that with few ex-
ceptions the members were {or are) busy men having many
demands upon their time, and that the homes of most of them
were {or are) distant several miles from the club rooms.

Of the members who joined the club in its first year, the
only one now living is Franklin MacVeagh; and Alfred
Bishop Mason is the sole survivor of those elected in the second
year. Two who came into the club in its third year ^ Joseph
Adams and Robert T. Lincoln., are still with us^ and John
J. Schobinger who resigned in 1 904 when he beca?ne a resi-
dent of Morgan Park., is also living and regrets that he is not
now in the fold. Of the fourth year members only Clarence
A. Burley and the present writer remain; and of the fifth
year contingent one alone survives, Charles Norman Fay who
made the mistake of resigning in 1903.

The personnel of the club is of course constantly changing
from natural causes , yet the club itself has changed little if
any as the years have slipped by. The distinctive character
that was given it in the beginning has always been main-
taiyjed. New members take the places of the old but the club
remains the same., and it is to be hoped that it will so con-
tinue for many years to come.

Frederick W. Gookin

Winnetka, November i, 1925.



I. Founding and early days i

II. The first and second seasons 15

III. The third season. Rooms of the club in the
American Express Company's Building on
Monroe Street occupied 32

IV. Events of the fourth season 45

V. Other seasons in the first club rooms. . . 60

VI. Removal to rooms in Portland Block. The
Matthew Arnold hoax and other memorable
incidents 76

VII. Removal from Portland Block rooms. Meet-
ings held at Kinsley's Restaurant. Head's
paper on "Shakespeare's Insomnia" ... 97

VIII. Removal to rooms in the Art Institute Build-
ing and events of the first year there . . .115

IX. Events of the next two years. Memorials of

three well-beloved members 129

X. The last two years of the club's tenancy of the
rooms in the Art Institute Building. More
memorials 140

[ vii ]



XI. The years when the club's home was in the

University Club Building in Dearborn Street 153

XII. The years when the club was domiciled in the
Orchestra Building and then in the Fine Arts
Building 176


A. List of the rooms occupied by the club, and
other places where its meetings have been
held, with dates 203

B. List of the club's officers, 1874 to 1924 . . 205

C. Roll of members, past and present, arranged
alphabetically 211

D. Lists of papers read before the club, and other
contributions to the literary exercises, with
dates, tabulated under the names of the sev-
eral contributors . 235

L I S r OF 1 L L U S T R A T I O N S

Reverend Robert CoUyer, first president . . i-rontispiea
From a photograph by Brisbois, about 1888.


William Frederick Poole, sixth president ... 12
From a photograph by Brisbois, about 1885,

Edward Gay Mason, first secretary and fifth presi-
dent 16

Frofn a photograph by Max P/atz, about 1888.

James Sager Norton, twelfth president .... 40
F}-o/)i a photograph taken in Rome ifi 1893.

Major Henry Alonzo Huntington, tenth president 84
Fro??i a photograph taken about 1885,

Dr. James Nevins Hyde, sixteenth president . . 88
From a photograph by Steffens 1909.

General Alexander Caldwell McClurg, thirteenth

president 100

From a photograph by Max Platz, about 1898.

Franklin Harvey Head, seventeenth president . .112
From a photograph by W. J. Root, about 1905.

Reading Room of the club in the former building of
The Art Institute (now the home of the Chicago
Club), Michigan Avenue and \^anBuren Streets 1 16
From a photograph taken in 1888,

1 ix 1


List of Illustrations


Assembly room of the club in the Art Institute

Building, 1888 120

Reverend David Swing 124

From a photograph taken about 1892.

John Crerar 136

From a photograph taken in New York by W. Kurtz^ about

Reverend Clinton Locke, eighteenth president . . 140
From a photograph by C. D. Mosher, about 1900.

Reading Room of the club, tenth floor, Fine Arts
Builidng 176

Fro7n a photograph taken in 19 12.

Assembly Room of the club, tenth floor. Fine Arts
Building, 1912. Its day-time aspect when used
jointly by the Literary Club and the Caxton
Club ; the chairs used for the Literary Club meet-
ings removed and the president's table placed at
the side of the room instead of the north end . 180

Edward Osgood Brown, thirty-sixth president . .188
From a photograph taken in 1904.

Frederick William Gookin, third secretary and
treasurer and forty-eighth president . . . .192
From a photograph by Matzene, about 191 5.




Chapter I

THE story of the founding of the Chicago Literary
Club turnishes in some sort an historic parallel to
the nursery rhyme of "Little Dickey Dilver and
his bow of silver," of whom it will be remembered that
"He bent his bow to shoot a crow
And hit a cat in the window."
Under the able leadership of Mr. Francis Fisher
Browne, "The Lakeside Monthly" in 1873 had attained
an honorable position in the field of literature, and was
struggling to maintain a high standard in spite of inade-
quate pecuniary recognition on the part of the public. Of
the articles that appeared in its pages many of the best
were written by Chicago men. With a view to stimulat-
ing further literary eflfort in our city, and at the same time
to furnish a supply of desirable papers for his magazine,
Mr. Browne conceived the idea of forming a Club some-
what similar to the Century Club of New York, which

[ I 1

The Chicago Literary Club

should accomplish this result. This is the story as told in

his own words:

Chicago, June 3, 1892.
My Dear Mr. Gookin:

Since our brief chat about the formation of the Literary Club I
have refreshed my memory a little in the case, though the most of
what I can recall was given you in outline.

The idea originally was to make it a sort of "Lakeside Contribu-
tors' Club," — "The Lakeside Monthly"(of which I waseditor) being
at that time about five years old, and having succeeded in gaining
signal recognition in foreign quarters, was beginning to attract notice
among the more slowly appreciative but literary-aspiring people
nearer home. Hence some of its friends thought it would be a good
thing to organize a club from among its contributors and other
literary people, to extend its influence and advance the claims of
literature generally in the city. That was the inception. During the
winter of 1873-4, several informal meetings were held in my office
in the Lakeside Building, at which the project was discussed; those
present being Rev. Dr. J. C. Burroughs, Hon. J. M. Binckley, Mr.
C. C. Bonney, and myself,— a quartette of B's, of whom I was the
youngest but not the least interested member. At one of these con-
ferences it was decided to call a more general meeting at the Sherman
House, and this was held in the spring (March or April) of 1874,
those present being Rev. Dr. Burroughs, Mr. Binckley, Rev. Dr. H.
N. Powers, Rev. Robert Collyer, and Mr. E. G. Mason, — all of
them Lakeside contributors except Mr. Mason. I was not present
at this meeting owing to serious illness, — from which cause also the
magazine was, not long after, given up; and for the next few years
I was absent from the city most of the time, and my membership
in the club lapsed.

The early history of the club from the time of the Sherman
House meeting is, I suppose, matter of record; but I have trans-
cribed from memory these few details of its unrecorded history — now
known at first hand only to myself and to Mr. Bonney, whose recol-
lections will doubtless confirm my own as to the club's incipiency
and the facts that make it an emanation or outgrowth of "The Lake-
side Monthly."

Very truly yours,

Francis F. Browne.

[ 2 1

Mr. Bonney's Recollections

Mr. Browne's remembrances of what led to the for-
mation of the club are confirmed by those of Mr. Bonney
and Mr. Collyer. In August, 1892, Mr. Bonney wrote:

I have been asked to state my recollection of the ori-
gin of the 'Chicago Literary Club.' It originated in the
editorial office of 'The Lakeside Monthly,' of which Mr.
Francis F. Browne was then the editor, and who talked
with Dr. J. C. Burroughs, Hon. J. M.Binckley and myself
in regard to the project, and we agreed with him that it
would be advisable to attempt the formation of a Literary
Club of the same general character as that of the Century
Club of New York City. According to my remembrance,
Mr. Browne was the author of the original idea and pro-
posal. Those whom I have mentioned approved his views,
and agreed to aid him in an endeavor to carry them into
effect. Conferences followed with Rev. Dr. H.N. Powers,
Rev. Robert Collyer, Prof. David Swing, and others; and
it was finally agreed that a meeting should be called of
the club room of the Sherman House for the purpose in
effecting an organization. Such a meeting was held and
was followed by several others, in the course of which the
present Chicago Literary Club was organized. During
these meetings there was much discussion in regard to a
proper name, and the present name was finally chosen.
Mr. E. G. Mason was made secretary of the club. Accord-
ing to my recollection the club owes its constitution and
distinguishing characteristics chiefiy to the influence,
during its formative stage, of Mr. Browne, Mr. Collyer,
Dr. Powers, and Mr. Binckley."

Mr. Collyer's testimony, though brief, is to the same

1 3 ]

The Chicago Literary Club

"The spring head of the Chicago Literary Club can be
easily traced to my dear old friend F. F. Browne, who has
done so much beside, of which his city, — and mine for
so many years — may well be glad and not a little proud.
'The Lakeside Monthly' was then to the fore, full of good
Hterature, though there is a tradition in my family that
some things I wrote must have helped to swamp the fine
adventure. Be this as it pay, it is true that my friend
thought such a club would bring grist to his mill and the
thought was a sound one; but the mill stopped when the
miller could not be at his post, to our regret; while I will
venture to say that the monthly will some time be sought
for and paid for at a great price.

"Then Mr. C. C. Bonney took hold of the idea, as he
takes hold always, with his whole heart, and the Chicago
Literary Club was organized and launched; and I want
to say that no man did so much after Mr. Browne had to
retire, as he did to 'make the thing go,' as we say, while
the great and unexpected honor was conferred upon quite
an unfit man of being elected the first president, of which
he is still proud and grateful also, as well he may be."

The actual history of the club begins with the meet-
ing held m the club room at the Sherman House at three
o'clock in the afternoon of Friday, March thirteenth,
1874; ^"d from this time forward nothing further appears
to have been heard of the idea of making the club a sort
of "feeder" to "The Lakeside Monthly." Seven were pres-
ent at this preliminary meeting: Rev. Robert Collyer,
Rev. Dr. John C. Burroughs, Judge Henry Booth, Rev.
Dr. Horatio N. Powers, John M. Binckley, Edward G.
Mason, and W. J. Leonard. The latter did not afterward

[ 4 ]

Edward Mason's Recollections

join the club; indeed his presence at the meeting appears
to have been a surprise to the others in attendance and to
have been due to a misconception on his part growing out
of a notion that the purpose of the gathering was to found
some sort of a journal to be embellished with chromo-
lithographic illustrations. In a paper read before the club
on the occasion of the celebration of its twentieth anniver-
sary, Edw^ard G. Mason gave some recollections of this
first meeting and other early meetings, and related a num-
ber of incidents concerning which the minutes in the
club records, also prepared by him, are discreetly silent.
He says :

"My memory goes back to a day in March, 1 874, when
the Reverend Dr. J. C. Burroughs asked me to attend
a meeting of gentlemen interested in the formation of
a club in Chicago somewhat like the Century in New
York, which was to be held at the Sherman House on the
afternoon of March 13, 1874. J was present at the time
appointed, and found there the Reverend Robert Collyer,
Reverend Dr. J. C. Burroughs, Honorable Henry Booth-,
Reverend Dr. H. N. Powers, Messrs. J. M. Binckley and
W. J. Leonard, forming with myself the mystic number
of seven, which doubtless has had a great deal to do with
the fortunes of the club. We were seven, and Wordsworth's
lines might be paralleled in more than one respect by the
subsequent fortunes of the persons in question, two in
the churchyard lie, two elsewhere dwell, and two have
gone to see what they can find outside the club, at least
they no longer belong to it, and I am tonight the sole
representative of that part in the resident membership
of the club. I knew no more of its inception then than

[ 5 1

The Chicago Literary Club

the invitation which came from Dr. Burroughs, nor have
I heard until very recently of anything which preceded
that meeting. Strange rumors have reached me of late
that the idea originated in the editorial rooms of 'The
Lakeside Monthly,' a magazine then printed in Chicago,
and that the first plan was to make it a sort of Lake-
side Contributors' Club. I hear it stated in proof of this
that of those present at the first meeting four were con-
tributors to 'The Lakeside Monthly.' I recall furthermore
that one of the persons present on that occasion was said
to have come to interest the other gentlemen in some
scheme not altogether unconnected with the issue of
chromos. However correct these reminiscences may be,
of one thing I am certain, that neither the magazine idea
nor the chromo idea took any root in the club from the
first, and I think the records will show that the gentle-
men having these things in view before a great while
ceased to have any connection with the club. I remember
that when it was agreed that an association should be
effected, one gentleman present produced and read a list
of proposed members which seemed to have been copied
from one of our newspaper articles upon Chicago million-
aires. Not a local capitalist of any note was omitted, and
those credited with less than a million had no occasion to
apply. The reading of this remarkable roll of nominees for
membership in a purely literary organization paralyzed
the hearers to such an extent that it was nearly adopted
by default. One of those present, however, rallied suffi-
ciently to recollect that it had been stated to be a reason
for forming the proposed club that there should be one
place in Chicago where money did not count, and he

[ 6 ]

A Memorable Meeting

mildly suggested that such a membership was not exactly
the best way to accomplish this object. The list was
tabled and another one adopted better suitetl to the
objects of the organization. It was solemnly agreed that
only those whose names appeared in the list agreed upon
should be invited to attend the next meeting, but as we
went out of the room Mr. Collyer remarked, 'Oh, well, I
suppose if one sees another good fellow anywhere he may
ask him to come in.' Although this was promptly objected
to, the good Dominie for a time forgot the objection and
surprised his associates by introducing friends whom he
had casually met and asked to drop in upon us, and it was
quite a time before Brother Collyer was persuaded to
abide by the restraints of the constitution."

Some of the gentlemen thus introduced became valu-
able members of the club: the names of others do not
appear upon its records except in the list of those attend-
ing the meetings at which they were present.

Another preliminary meeting was held at the Sherman
House on March 17, 1874, at eight o'clock in the evening;
and a third, at the same place on March 24, when a pro-
visional organization was effected and a draft of a consti-
tution and by-laws was adopted, but referred for revision
to the committee which prepared and presented it. "This
committee," writes Edward G. Mason, "then proceeded
to elaborate and effloriate its work until a gorgeous struc-
ture was reared upon the simple foundation first laid.
When we met on the evening of Tuesday, April 7, 1874,
for the purpose of perfecting the organization, our busy
committee of three B's presented a stately preamble and
constitution to our astonished ears."

[ 7 1

The Chicago Literary Club

"Over the lapse of twenty-five years," says Edward O.
Brown in a paper, read on the twenty-fifth anniversary
of the founding of the club, "I remember with a vividness
which actually startles me, the oppressive silence which
reigned around the table in the club room for several min-
utes after Mr. Binckley, the chairman of the committee,
had finished the reading of this wondrous report."

The preamble which has fortunately been rescued from
oblivion, read as follows:

"To promote the true sovereignty of letters and cul-
ture; to sustain the same by the moral and social virtues;
to form and maintain a literary organization fairly repre-
sentative of the intellectual rank and progress of Chicago;
and to cultivate fraternal relations with other exponents
of literature and art,

"We, the undersigned citizens of Chicago, convened
for this purpose do ordain and establish this

and the constitution opened with the following statement
of its objects:

"The business of this Association in pursuance of the
objects mentioned in the preamble of this constitution,
shall extend to the cultivation and enjoyment of litera-
ture in its largest sense so far as may be consistent with
the nature of our organization and the limitations hereby

Mr. Mason's account of this meeting and of what oc-
curred after the presentation of the amazing report is as
follows :

"I very much regret that the whole constitution was
not preserved in our records, and that the remainder of

[ 8 1

An Amazing Rkport

it cannot now be found. It was unique in its way, and as
a model of what the constitution of a literary club should
not be was beyond all praise. I only remember now that
among its other oratorical flourishes it provided in swell-
ing and glowing terms tor a chaplain, an orator, a poet, a
marshal, an assistant marshal, a scribe, an assistant
scribe, and other dignitaries for the club, by the side of
whom plain presidents and secretaries seemed very insig-
nificant. There were to be committees on a great variety of
subjects such as 'xArt in the Western States,' 'Art in the
Eastern States,' *Art in Europe,' on 'Science and Litera-
ture' in various phases; and a crowning feature of the
exercises was to be a grand pageant of which the marshal
was to be the major domo.

"x-\s we listened to the rolling periods of this remark-
able document, visions of waving banners, of glittering
insignia, and of magnificent regalia danced before our
eyes, and we were treated to a surprise even greater than
that caused by the list of capitalists read at our first meet-
ing. We all sat in silence for a time when the last notes
of the reader died away, and before the complacent faces
of the committee who sat together on one side of our
round table it was difficult, and even cruel, to criticize
their work at all. However, one bold individual whose
name is now lost to fame, rose to the occasion, and
remarked in a quiet conversational tone, 'The preamble
impresses me as being slightly ornate. I think it must
have been written by the candidate for poet; I move
that the preamble be omitted.' The motion was quickly
seconded and then Mr. Collyer stated it and asked for
discussion, but not a word was spoken until the question

I y 1

The Chicago Literary Club

was put. The committee sat aghast and refrained from
voting, so that the decision upon the question was
unanimous in its favor. Then we meandered for a while
among the winding paths and flowery shades of the con-
stitution, until we became entangled and darkened in
its mazes, and there seemed to be no relief at hand. But
Mr. Horace White, at that time editor of The Chicago
Tribune, at last cut the Gordian knot by a motion to
strike out all but the preamble. This passed with equal
unanimity, the horror stricken committee making no
effort to save their bantling. New members were added to
the committee and the whole subject went over to the
meeting of April 14, when a new constitution was pre-
sented shorn of the glories of its predecessor but better
suited to the needs of such a club. This with some amend-
ments, together with a code of by-laws, was formally
adopted and the election of officers under it held April

The episode just related marks only the beginning of
what developed into a long struggle before the club suc-
ceeded in formulating a code of rules perfectly adapted to
its needs. The vital principles, however, which have
proved to be the source of strength and have kept it free
from dissensions throughout the entire course of its exist-
ence, were contained in the first constitution, and in an
"Order of Exercises" adopted at the meeting held on May
4, 1874. These principles may be stated thus:

1. That the literary exercises are of chief importance.

2. That the social advantages afforded by the club
depend largely upon the excellence of the literary work

[ 10 ]

The Principles of the Club

3. That the general business of the cKib is placed in
the exclusive charge of committees, so that no business
other than amendments to the rules or matters of such
importance as to call for general discussion and expres-
sion of opinion, comes before the club at its ordinary

4. That while the largest liberty is given to the expres-
sion of individual opinion the club itself is prohibited
from having any opinion or creed and cannot be used to
further any sort of propagandism however worthy it may

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Online LibraryFrederick William GookinThe Chicago literary club : a history of its first fifty years → online text (page 1 of 21)