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NYPL RESEARCH LIBRARIES




3 3433 08237459







THE


NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY




PRESENTED BY


Mrs.


J . W. Surb rug


May


26, 1926.



/




JAMES GIBBONS HUNEKER
(i8go)



STEEPLEJACK



BY



JAMES GIBBONS HUNEKER



' / find no snttttr fat than stick s to my own bonts."
— Walt Whitman.




Volume II



NEW YORK

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

1920





put,— -~>— "







192Q



Copyright, 1918, by
JAMES GIBBONS HUNEKER



Copyright, 1920, by
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS



Published September, 1920



CONTENTS

PART III

NEW YORK
(1877-1917)

CHAPTER PAGE

I. I Capture the City 3

II. Musical Journalism 16

III. In the Maelstrom 26

IV. The De Reszkes and Paderewski .... 53

V. NORDICA AND FrEMSTAD 57

VI. Oscar Hammerstein 61

VII. Antonin Dvorak 65

VIII. Steinway Hall 70

IX. A Prima Donna's Family 72

X. Newspaper Experiences 88

XI. Montsalvat 99

XII. I Am a Free-Lance 109

XIII. Criticism 122

XIV. With Joseph Conrad 128

XV. Brandes in New York 134

XVI. The Colonel 141

XVII. Dramatic Critics 144

XVIII. Early Ibsen 159

XIX. Pictures 162

v



vi CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

XX. New York in Fiction 169

XXI. A Vocal Abelard 179

XXII. "M'lle New York" 189

XXIII. My Dream-Barn 198

XXIV. My Zoo 213

XXV. My Best Friend 217

XXVI. Autograph Letters 224

XXVII. Mid- Victorian Max 251

XXVIII. G. B. S 257

XXIX. His Letters ^_" 264

XXX. A Half-Hamlet 277

Index . . . 313



ILLUSTRATIONS

James Gibbons Huneker, 1890 Frontispiece

FACING PAGE

Adelina Patti at Sixteen 28

Helena von Shevitch 28

Marcella Sembrich 40

Edouard de Reszke 54

Jean de Reszke 54

Ignace Paderewski 56

Olive Fremstad 58

Eleanora Duse no

M. Maeterlinck 120

August Strindberg 136

Theodore Roosevelt 142

Julia Marlowe 152

Anton SeidI 202

James Gibbons Huneker, 1900 202

George Moore 228

My Maiden Flight 304



PART III

NEW YORK

(1877-1917)



I

I CAPTURE THE CITY

I was forced to drain my dree. My sudden little
enthusiasms were beginning to pall. Stung by the gad-
fly of necessity, I had to follow my market: all news-
paper men must. I was to learn that versatility is not
heaven sent, but is largely a matter of elbow-grease.
Some one has written that genius is mainly an affair of
energy, which puts the blacksmith, Theodore Roosevelt,
and the baseball player in the same category. If it were
only so, then the man of genius would rub elbows with
mediocrity. I have always had the courage of my
friendships. Not to envy some particular person for
his accomplishments is to proclaim yourself hopelessly
self-satisfied; nevertheless, I've never met anyone with
whom I would change places, except a dead man. You
may have the desire of the moth for the star and remain
a happy insect. It demands something more than tech-
nical heroism to write your autobiography. The life of
Samuel Johnson, that ranks its author among the greatest
of the world's biographers, canny James Boswell, a por-
trait-painter without parallel, has also presented us with
a self-portrait that matches his masterly delineation of
the great Cham. Who reads Rasselas nowadays, or
consults the once celebrated dictionary? I confess to
liking the Tour to the Hebrides by this most perfect of
John Bulls. But BoswelFs Johnson! After all, auto-
biography is superior fiction. Nietzsche has warned us

3



4 STEEPLEJACK

against accepting the confessions of great men — meaning
Wagner. Writing one's history is a transposition of the
embalmer's art to the printed page. Like the Egyp-
tians we seek to preserve our personality. The Egyptian
way has lasted longer. We think of the mighty Milton
when he modestly confessed: "For although a poet, soar-
ing in the high reason of his fancies, with his garland
and singing robes about him, might, without apology,
speak more of himself than I mean to do; yet for me
sitting here below in the cool element of prose, a mortal
among many readers of no empyreal conceit, to venture
and divulge unusual things of myself, I shall petition
to the gentler sort, it may not be envy to me." And
leaning heavily on the illustrious John, as must all soul-
spillers, I shall proceed with these avowals of a personal
pronoun.

Did you ever hear the story of the man who proposed
remarriage to his divorced wife? She was one of the
old guard who sighs but never surrenders. A skinny girl
with guilty eyes, her soul had become a slumbering
forest. But she was faithful to her alimony. There-
fore, when her husband became imprudent, she calmly
answered: "You always were so impetuous!" He was
one of those men to whom "God has given a forehead"
as Russian peasants say of the bald. Her pent-up cas-
cades of tenderness not freely flowing he went away in
a huff and remarried his other divorced wife. But the
first lady's bank-account knew no husband. She re-
mained single and an alimonist in perpetuity. It was
certainly the end of an imperfect day. The moral is
not afar to seek. I had been unfaithful to my birth-
place. I had hankered after the flesh-pots of Paris.
These failing, I had returned to my lawful first love,



I CAPTURE THE CITY



and discovered that she was indifferent to me. I deter-
mined on another alliance. A third attack of that brief
epilepsy called love had begun. I was in the doldrums
of despair. I might have reproached Philadelphia as
De Quincey did " stony-hearted step-mother Oxford
Street." Anywhere, anywhere out of the town. I had
not even the consolation of those new cults, unscientific,
unchristian, and absurd, that elevate religion to the dig-
nity of a sport. I dreamed of becoming a writer, but I
realised that splendour of style without spiritual elevation
is like a gewgaw in a pawnbroker's window. And the
sacrifices one must make are enormous. A leading-
motive in Faust, "Renounce thou shalt; shalt renounce !"
sounded for the first time in the symphony of my ego.
Suddenly one night I sat up in bed and thought: To-
morrow ! New York ! In the morning I packed my
bag and slipped away on an afternoon train without a
godspeed save from one faithful soul. I was to take
another bath of multitude. The month was February,
the year 1886.

It was nearing dusk when from the ferry-boat I saw
my new home, but unlike Rastignac in Balzac's fiction,
I did not shake my fist at the imposing city nor mutter:
"A nous deux maintenant !" I never even thought of that
duel with Paris in which no man was ever victor. I only
wondered where I should sleep. I soon decided. I
landed at Twenty-third Street ferry, caught a crosstown
car, alighted at Broadway and walked down to Four-
teenth Street; there to get a lodging for the night in the
old Morton House. The room cost one dollar, the win-
dow was on the square, and from it I could see the Ever-
ett House, the Union Square Hotel, and the statue of
Lincoln. That section of the town was to become my



6 STEEPLEJACK

happy hunting-ground for over twenty-five years, and
New York my home for three decades, with the excep-
tion of excursions to Europe. A new Avatar ! My
brother, Paul, had warned that if I became a resident of
Gotham then I should have no place to go to: an epigram
that has since been appropriated without due credit.
"J'y suis, j'y reste," said I in the immortal phrase of
Marechal MacMahon. Besides, after Paris, the modu-
lation to New York was simple — and no city, not even
Philadelphia, is so unlike Paris as New York. I didn't
feel in the least provincial. Paris had lent me aplomb,
had rubbed off my salad greenness.

Thirty years ago the sky-line from Jersey City was
not so inspiring as it is to-day, but from the heights of
the Hudson the view was then, as now, magnificent.
Above Wall Street, on Broadway, and east of it, was
a congested business district. A few spires, Trinity
Church, the Tribune Building, the Times Building, were
conspicuous objects from the bay. Now you search for
Trinity between cliffs of marble, while in New Jersey you
catch the golden gleam of the World's dome. The Wool-
worth Building, among many, has distanced it in the
race skyward. What a difference, too, there was lower
down. The Battery, a clot of green, was surrounded
by a few imposing buildings, to-day mere impediments
for their loftier neighbours. Walt Whitman's Mast-
hemmed Manhatta had an actual meaning then; now
Manhattan is funnel-encircled, and in a few years it
may be the nesting spot of bird-men. You could see
churches then. Here and there a spire like a sharpened
lead-pencil protruded from the background. To-day, one
makes pilgrimages to them through stony canyons. The
city was torn up, as it had been fifty years earlier when



I CAPTURE THE CITY



Dickens visited it, as it is in 1919. New York thrives
best amidst excavations.

That first night is still vivid. A February thaw had
set in. The evening was mild. I sauntered from my
hotel, if not captain of my soul, anyhow of my slender
purse. Leaving so unexpectedly I had not prepared for
the inevitable. I had a few friends, but I preferred not
troubling them. It was to be bareback riding for the
future. But I had to eat my supper. I had dined at
the unfashionable hour of 1 p. m. I went straight to a
cafe; I had been there the previous summer. It stood on
Fourteenth Street, east of Fourth Avenue, and faced
Steinway Hall, a prime magnet for me. The cafe was
kept by an old couple, the Lienaus, and was the head-
quarters of the musical aristocracy. The men sat below
stairs in the cafe, and watched Mother Lienau count the
cash or scold George, the fat bartender. She called
him "Schorch," and he was simply a treasure, an adipose
angel of amiability. To hear him address the irritable old
woman as "Mamma" was touching, especially as he al-
ways 'winked at us when she asked for a drink. Up-
stairs was the drawing-room of the establishment, and
there Papa Lienau reigned. He was as tall and massive
as his wife was short and pudgy. His rule was clement.
Not to raise a row over anything, that was the one law.
And no one ever did. A room in the rear held a piano and
from it I have heard music made by Joseffy, Friedheim,
Mills, Neupert, Sternberg — who can do more amusing
stunts on the keyboard than any pianist — Ansorge, and
the herculean Rosenthal. But no one was present when
I entered the cafe that evening and ordered a humble
meal. Later in the evening I met nearly every man



8 STEEPLEJACK

that later was to have a finger in my personal pie. I took
a walk and got as far as Liichow's, a few doors below.
There I was introduced to Otto Floersheim, the editor of
The Musical Courier. Hugh Craig introduced me. Hugh
was a cultivated Englishman I had met at the "Keg"
on Broad Street. I had sold my first story for five dollars
to the editor of the West Philadelphia Telephone, and I
promptly spent the money with that jolly chap, whose
name I have forgotten. While doing this in strolled
Hugh Craig and a friendship began that ceased with his
death, twenty years afterwards. Craig was that ideal
person, a scholar and a gentleman. A university man
he was also a man of the world, of gentle breeding, and
he was never in a hurry. No newspaper in which he
worked needed an encyclopaedia. He seemed to know
everything, and could write without preparation on any
topic. A linguist, he could speak no language fluently
but his own, though he could translate from a dozen.
He always had a cigarette in his mouth, and there was a
slight burr on his speech, which may have argued a Scotch
strain. He was a good friend, and like Sam Johnson,
he was ever ready for a "frisk." He was of a dusty, in-
definite age, about twenty years my senior. Otto Floer-
sheim made no impression on me, except that he was fat,
rather pompous, good-humoured, and perspiring.

We went back to Lienau's, there to meet the senior
editor of The Musical Courier, chunky, shrewd, and with
the most piercing and brilliant eyes I ever saw in a
human's head. They were jewelled, gleaming, and as
hard as agate. I had met Marc Blumenberg the summer
of 1885 at the Academy of Music, New York, where a
meeting of the Music Teachers' National Association
was in session. Theodore Presser, of the Etude intro-



I CAPTURE THE CITY



duced me. I had liked the plump little Hebrew, and
I continued to like him till the day of his death. He it
was who gave me my first leg up over the fence in New
York, and I shall never forget his kindness. We chatted.
I can see him, napkin tucked under his chin, preparing
to eat; he was a solid trencherman. He took me in with
his cool, measuring glance, and when I told him that I
wrote about music, he bade me drop into the office of
The Musical Courier, then at 25 East Fourteenth Street.
It was a year or so before I accepted that invitation.
What Craig and I did that night has slipped me. The
next morning I was up and doing, for I had slept well,
thanks to my bad conscience. I went in search of a
more suitable residence, and a cheaper. Jacques Reich,
the engraver, had an atelier at Fifth Avenue and Four-
teenth Street, and to him I explained my wants. He
had lived in Philadelphia and I think did my father's
head in crayon. He proved obliging. Soon I found a
comfortable room, top floor, at the corner of Thirteenth
Street and Seventh Avenue. In the row of houses with
porches standing well away from the sidewalk, on Seventh
Avenue, is No. 40. The row may be still seen looking
as it did thirty-two years ago. Across the street was the
Fan wood. S. B. Mills, a famous pianist, lived in the
block, composed for the most, of boarding-houses. Mrs.
Genevieve Ferris was my landlady, and the most motherly
of women. She was handsome, and had a masterful
way, which came natural as she was a custom-house in-
spector, and on the steamship docks every day. The
boarders were only five or six young men. We paid
eight dollars a week, and complained if we didn't get
beefsteak at breakfast. 0, the blessed time ! No wheat-
less, meatless, heatless, sinless, thirstless days then. I



io STEEPLEJACK

shook down at once in a tub of butter. But how to put
in my time was the problem.

At noon, after my belongings had been transferred
and I could look a policeman in the eye, feeling a home-
less vagabond no longer, I crossed Fourteenth Street to
University Place, then to the right and found myself at
the hospitable cafe of Billy Moulds'. It should not be
forgotten that in New York, as in Paris, the cafe is the
poor man's club. It is also a rendezvous for newspaper
men, musicians, artists, Bohemians generally. It is the
best stamping-ground for men of talent. Ideas circulate.
Brain tilts with brain. Eccentricity must show cause
or be jostled. If there is too much drinking, there is the
compensation of contiguity with interesting personalities.
In those abodes of prim dulness, so-called religious clubs
for young men without a thirst, I never saw any signs of
life except the daily newspapers. I am not concerned
with the salvation of my brother's soul, having my hands
full of my own, but if hedging a growing youth about
with moral wire- fences will keep him "straight," then his
intellectual growth is not worth a copper. At the first
puff of reality, of the world as it actually is, he will
collapse. Until mankind changes — which it hasn't since
the tertiary geological epoch — or something better is de-
vised than the cafe, that institution will continue to form
and develop the adolescent male. Clubs are too expen-
sive for the majority of us. The present interlude of
hypocrisy and bigotry from which our nation is now
suffering will surely be followed by a violent reaction,
and like such reactions, the pendulum will swing too far
in the opposite direction. Mankind can stand just so
much and no more. Recall the Restoration after the
reign of dreary Puritanism in England; and what were



I CAPTURE THE CITY n

the Puritans of those days compared with our oppressive
breed ! Heaven bless their bones ! those roundheads
consumed tankards of ale and plenty of beef. Their
worst offence was their chronic howling of hymns, and
their forbidding a man to covet his neighbour's wife on
Sundays; also forbidding a man to embrace his proper
spouse on the Sabbath; an edict that may have found
favour with overworked husbands. But those Puritans
with their " scarecrow " sins were also pious politicians.
Beware a pious politician. He is more dangerous than
one in petticoats (sometimes he is in petticoats). As to
their droning, heaven, like hell, is paved with pious vocal
intentions; otherwise how can the choir angelic, not to
mention the Great White Throne, endure the ear-splitting
bawling wafted upward from here below? Their deity
must be very patient, or else as tone-deaf as his unmusical
worshippers. Their sincerity is no excuse for sounds
like a dog's cough, or the cackling of a hoarse parrot.
God can't be worshipped beautifully enough. Little
cause to wonder if a man with sensitive ears prefers the
cafe to the church.

The first man I met at the Moulds Cafe was Francis
Saltus, poet, wit, raconteur, and as brilliant as his brother,
Edgar Saltus. With the solitary exception of Oscar
Wilde, I never heard a human discourse so eloquently as
Frank, nor have I ever known such a perfect Bohemian.
William Dean Howells has told us of the group that
gathered at Pfaff's several decades before; Fitz-James
O'Brien who wrote the most horror-breeding short story
since Poe, "What Was It?" or some such title, a story
that is as vivid as de Maupassant's Horla, and one that
furnished Ambrose Bierce with the motive for his best



12 STEEPLEJACK

tale; Walt Whitman, who probably drank buttermilk,
as he neither smoked nor touched alcoholic beverages,
and a lot of chaps, Arnold among the rest, whose names
are writ in water. The Moulds contingent was not so
celebrated, but the actors, singers, painters, poets, news-
paper men, and politicians were so numerous that a li-
brary might be filled with the recital of their accomplish-
ments. Frank Saltus had lived the major part of his
life in Paris. He was a member of the Theophile Gautier
circle, and a protege of "Ie bon Theo," whose polished
technique and impassible attitude towards life and art
he had assimilated. When I hear the frantic clamourings
made by uncritical critics over some newly-arrived free-
verse bard whose "poetry" is a jumble of Whitman and
falling bricks, I wonder if they ever have read Francis
Saltus. He was a poet, a pagan, therefore immoral.
Now the "immorality" is taken as a matter of course by
the young poetasters, but the poetry is left out. We
have in this year of grace many "poets," but no Poet.
(I must resort to obvious capitalisation.) Frank Saltus
carved sonnets from the solid block. He wrote epigrams
at fifty cents apiece for Town Topics, he composed feu-
illetons that would have made the fortune of a Paris
boulevardier. His habits were irregular, though he got
up earlier than Willie Wilde, Oscar's brother, who had
married Mrs. Frank Leslie for a bedroom — so he said.
And Frank Saltus was fond of absinthe, another imported
habit and a deadly one. But I never saw him drunk,
and I never saw him without a cigarette in his mouth.
He usually arrived about noon and wrote and talked till
the last trump, which was at two a. m.; sometimes later.
The classic type of Bohemianism that has quite vanished.
He was a ruin, and a gentleman, who had evidently been



I CAPTURE THE CITY 13

very handsome. The photographs taken in Paris re-
vealed him as a Greek god; but when I knew him his
good looks were historical. Edgar Saltus was handsome
in a different style, dark, Italian, petit-maitre, a prose-
master and a philosopher.

There was a sufficing cause for the punctuality of
Frank, and the rest of us at Moulds'. Free-lunch ! Up
at the Hoffman House you could eat a regular course
dinner on one drink, but you had to tip the waiter a
quarter; at Moulds' there were no tips, nor was there an
assortment of dishes. The glory of the establishment
was its bean soup, hot, savoury, plentiful. Oh! that
bean soup. How many famished stomachs it soothed
and nourished in the days that are no more! Pardon
me if I shed a lyric tear over its memory. Billy Moulds
retired years ago to darkest Brooklyn, and when I meet
him I speak of the fabulous soup. His invariable an-
swer is: "It saved some of you fellows' lives, didn't it?
But do you remember Otto and his razzle-dazzle?" I
did. He meant Otto Floersheim, who had devised a
mixture of brandy, ginger ale, and absinthe, that was
warranted to knock a horse down. It never fazed Floer-
sheim, who introduced the concoction to Albert Niemann,
the Wagnerian tenor, a drinker that would have pleased
Pantagruel. To see this pair of monsters guzzle the
poison made shudder a sensitive and beer-absorbing soul.
Niemann could booze all night till next midday, and then
sing Siegmund that evening in a marvellous manner.
But not marvellous, vocally speaking. His acting, the
assumption of the character, was the chief interest. His
voice had gone before he visited us. In fact it was be-
ginning to go at the first Baireuth Festival in 1876.

That bean soup was a mainstay for us when the weather



14 STEEPLEJACK



was unfavourable to our pocketbooks. And there were
plenty of rainy days. The critical business is a precarious
one. Writing of any sort still is unless you manufacture
a "best-seller," and that is what we all try for. The
cashier at Moulds' was a brother of the boss and had
been a keeper at the Trenton State prison. Need I add
that Tom Moulds was judge of human nature ! Smiling,
sympathetic, he would take my proffered check — not a
bank cheque — and "hang it up" on my always growing
account. "I see it's not Delmonico's to-day, bean soup,
eh? Well, it's healthier and more filling — and it's on
the house, like a tin-roof." He jested, but he had a
warm heart and an open purse. I could fill pages with
the names of illustrious actors who patronised Moulds'.
Visiting English actors went there instinctively, it was
homelike, quiet, few quarrels (before midnight), and
good-fellowship was never absent. The old-timers I
met were Frank Mordaunt, Frank Evans, J. B. Studley,
Walter Turner, and an Englishman named Liston.
I've seen. Booth, Barrett, McCuIIough, and, once only,
Lester Wallack, there. The musical crowd were unfail-
ing visitors. I met, every evening, Augustus Brentano,
the senior brother of the well-known book-sellers, whose
big store was on Union Square next to Tiffany's. Joseffy
and Franz Rummel — who married Leila Morse, the
daughter of S. F. B. Morse — Sauret, Ovide Musin, Ysaye,
Gerardy, Max Heinrich. Who didn't go to Moulds'?
Many the commission to write I got in its shadowy back
room. The music trade-journalists congregated there.
In those days trade-journalism had not been standardised;
the same with the weekly sheets devoted to theatricals.
Each editor was a sharp-shooter — and often a free-
booter — on his own account. Their pens knew no brother.



I CAPTURE THE CITY 15

Dickens would have been delighted with the pages of
personal vituperation that were published and without
bloodshed ensuing. The vilest abuse was bandied. "If
the bug-juice editor who was found by the police-patrol
wagon early last Sunday morning as he sat on the curb-
stone with his watch dangling in the gutter, near the

M ds Cafe" (a subtle difference indeed) "does not

abandon his worship of Bacchus" — this would be fol-
lowed by a column devoted to the general habits of the
aforesaid "bug-juice editor," who never turned a hair,
but would report the following week as follows: "Our
readers should not listen to the piteous appeals of a poor,
decrepit barnstormer, bad actor, fugitive bankrupt, who
is after the money of gullible piano manufacturers to keep
his rotten little sheet from perishing. As the original
pirate in the trade we have a portrait of him in top-
boots, big hat, waving the piratical black flag which we
would only be too happy to show our readers in case
they drop in (and pay their new subscriptions) which
accurately places him on the map." The pot calling the
kettle black.



II

MUSICAL JOURNALISM

Theatrical journalism was even more personal, fisti-
cuffs being the last resort. To-day musical journalism
is greatly improved. It must always encourage medi-
ocrity, else perish. And the same may be said of the
daily press. The music-critics when I came to New
York were Henry T. Finck, of The Evening Post ; H. E.
Krehbiel, of The Tribune; William J. Henderson, of The
Times; this was 1887; later Mr. Henderson followed me


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