Page images
PDF
EPUB

spirited and sensitive man. Work, however, came to his relief, and in Holland, in spite of failing health, he did his last historical work, “The Life and Death of John of Barneveld.” The death of his wife in December, 1874, so far diminished his strength as to make further work almost impossible, and until his death, in 1877, his only attempt was to "create small occupations with which to fill the hours of a life which was only valued for his children's sake.”

Much that is painful in Motley's career can plainly be attributed to the wellknown hatred of the average man for the learning, refinement, nobility of bearing and of character which seem to reproach him for his own lack of them.

[graphic][merged small]

CALEB CUSHING

It is with some hesitation that the name call him selfish ; he was straightforward of Cushing is here included, because he and honorable enough, but his desire to was best known as a publicist and jurist, attain left him without the niceness to

a although he wrote somewhat in a dis- discern when it was wise to remain motinctly literary, if unimaginative vein, and mentarily in the background. was of high scholarly attainment. Per- At twenty-five he was the author of a haps it would be fair to say that he was a history of Newburyport, where he had better scholar than writer, since greatness gone to practice law three years earlier. of acquisition often precludes freedom of Soon he published “ The Practical Prinexpression. Even when a child his desire ciples of Political Economy," and wrote for learning was insatiable, and his capa- frequently for the North American Review city boundless. It is told of him that on on subjects ranging from the “Decamhis appointment to the Supreme Bench of eron” to Bigelow's “ Florula BostonienMassachusetts, he scoured the rust off his sis.” A year or so of observant travel enlegal training by carefully going over the abled him to put forth two works, each in Reports of that State at the rate of three two volumes, the one on “Reminiscences volumes a day, until in nineteen days be in Spain,” the other a “Review of the late

, had finished the task. The chin and Revolution in France." Then followed lower jaw of his powerful, yet handsome busy years in politics and legal practice, face, gave indication of his aggressive, until in 1843, rejected as Secretary of the persistent nature. To other strong qual- Treasury under Tyler, he was made a ities must be added a prodigious memory commissioner to China, and in the followand a limitless ambition; and through this ing year negotiated the first treaty beambition, sometimes clumsily exercised, tween that country and this. Cushing's career fell short of its great- Forty years after the appearance of est possibilities. It would be stupid to those books which stood for the result of

his European experience, he published country's courses. He seemed devoid of another on the Treaty of Washington, a moral enthusiasm. natural sequence of his services at Geneva and of his adverse opinion of Lord Cock

BAYARD TAYLOR burn, one of the British arbitrators. Swift upon this came his appointment, in 1873, His first experience in diplomacy ended to Spain, which he accepted with some in disappointment to Bayard Taylor; his reluctance. Cushing had been president second and more important mission was of the Charleston Convention of 1860, yet an almost unalloyed satisfaction to him, in a little more than a decade, with loy- though it brought him to his death. Like alty to the dominant party still running Boker, he was serviceable to the cause of high, he was nominated by Grant to the the Union, and reward came to him more Chief Justiceship of the United States. quickly than to the other Pennsylvanian, In spite of the great services which he in the shape of an appointment as Secrehad rendered the country, especially dur- tary of Legation to Russia. To secure ing the Geneva arbitration, public protest material for future writing was one unobliged a withdrawal of his name. There disguised motive for his acceptance of the was, however, no lack of admiration for secretaryship under Simon Cameron. His Cushing's great knowledge of external astonishing facility for languages stood affairs, and of international law. As a

As & by him, and four days after his arrival in publicist he was much respected, and his St. Petersburg he was making bargains in appointment as Minister to Spain met Russian. With the Camerons he was in with approval.

happy relation, and he seemed to enjoy Cushing's normal career was political, the exactions of imperial society without and what little ambition for literature he feeling obliged to confess himself bored may have cherished was laid aside after he by undemocratic splendor. The secret had passed beyond the academic impres- hope of every secretary is that his minis-, sions received at Harvard College, from ter will develop an impelling need of rest which he was graduated in 1817. Though, and travel. Diplomatic relaxation of this from lack of imaginative force, and from sort is apt to mean that the Secretary in the pressure of a busy life, he had left the the interim is Chargé d'affaires. This ranks of letters before his political and good fortune came not unexpectedly to diplomatic successes came to him, he re- Taylor by the return of Mr. Cameron to tained one form of scholarly ability-an this country. Something less than a extraordinary skill and accuracy in lan- promise, but more than a hope, had led guages. It was long remembered, with the Chargé to believe that he would be national pride, that his argument in Ge- finally appointed to the full rank and neva was made in admirable French. dignity of Minister. While not a politiEven when Attorney-General under cian, he understood his work, and was Pierce, from 1853 to 1857, he was able to altogether in Russia that "pleasing persustain conversation with the foreign min- son" by whom diplomacy sets so much isters in their own tongues. There is no store. In spite of a lack of influence biography of Caleb Cushing; there prob- outside the friendly words of literary ably never will be a need for such a work; companions, he dared to hope; but at for in a great national crisis he was not to last, realizing the futility of his aspirabe found among those who, at much per- tions, he began to lose what little political sonal sacrifice, tried wisely to shape the ambition he had begun to cherish. “I

a

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

sigh for

my
felt hat and swear at my

uni- in the shape of letters, visits and public form every time I put it on," he writes to dinners, that when the new Minister was Mrs. Stoddard. During all this time, with alone at last in his stateroom, he found his indefatigable energy, he found oppor- that he had barely escaped with his life. tunity to devote himself to his novel, It was no secret that Taylor wanted the “ Hannah Thurston,” and also to various appointment in order to devote himself to poetical enterprises. His “ Poet's Jour- the preparation of his “Goethe." This nal,” published while he was in Russia, being so, President Hayes's choice was the was, to his mortification, interpreted as a most frank recognition of literature as a sort of transcript of his personal experi- motive in our diplomatic service ever ences. Cassius M. Clay, who had resigned shown an out-going diplomatist. Taylor this post before Cameron's appointment, enjoyed his duties-social and diplomatic; was again selected for Russia, and Taylor three months before his death he wrote at once resigned as secretary. Intellectu- gaily to a friend : "I shall wear a stoveally, if not politically, Russia had bene- pipe hat of twice the usual size (which infited Taylor.

dicates a foreign minister), a black velvet Between this experience and the last coat, embroidered with gold, blue satin and greatest of his life, Taylor worked in- vest, lemon-tinted pantaloons, pearly-gray credibly hard, but really against wind and gloves, patent-leather boots, with gilded tide. Ill health in various forms assailed tips, and a white cravat fastened with a him at times ; in spite of his toil, the need sapphire brooch, ... but I am not of money harassed him; and worse than proud.” In December of the same year all, the higher quality of his literary per- he died, literally of over-work, not from formance failed to remunerate him, as had any special task, but from accumulated the earlier books to which he now looked years of remunerative drudgery. The back with something stronger than mis- “ stuff of life” for which he craved was givings. Lecturing, which he had never taken from him. He lived long enough to liked, ceased to be a satisfactory means of see a copy of his greatest single poem, making up his deficits. As if in anticipa- “Prince Deukalion.” All his life a travtion of his last visit, Taylor went in 1872 eler, his last words were, “I must be to Germany to begin his lives of Schiller away." Taylor was of extraordinary verand Goethe. On his return he again satility, but he lacked true philosophy, plunged into lecturing, and in six months else he would have lived more peacefully cleared eleven thousand dollars, but he and wisely on the ample sums which he so was so completely weary of thus knocking easily earned. Already he has ceased to about, that after a respite of twenty years be among the lasting names of our literary from newspaper work, he went back to a history. Yet he was essentially an desk in the Tribune office. He was rapidly American man of letters. As a journalist nearing some end, yet still toiling with his he is said not to have been popular, but he superhuman, but no longer buoyant, en- held the esteem of most of his contempoergy. In 1877 he writes to Lanier as raries, and the love of such men being “weary, fagged, with sore spots un- Whittier and Longfellow. In the pubder the collar bone, and all sorts of inde- lic mind he was, when he lived, a fascinscribable symptoms.” Early in the next ating and eventful figure, too full of year Bayard Taylor received the appoint present force and vitality, of too little ment of Minister to Germany. So inces- persuasive calm and strength, not to be sant and pressing were the congratulations soon forgotten.

1

a

[ocr errors]

as

[graphic]

GEORGE HENRY BOKER

Geo: 18 Boken

There were convincing reasons why George Henry Boker was a good man to send to Turkey in 1871 and in 1875 to Russia. He had had an excellent political training, and had been a loyal supporter of the Union cause during the Civil War. His reputation as a scholar and man of cultivation was soundly established. He was, moreover, a gentleman both in appearance and in fact—uneffusive if not reserved-one of the type, in short, which we like to call “ American." it was no wonder that the Union League of Philadelphia, of which he was one of the earliest members, sought to pay him distinguished honor on his departure in 1871. Boker had worked unremittingly to make the influence of the Union League powerful for loyalty. To the force and insight of his annual reports while secretary, Morton sion. Prince Gortchakof's regret at his

. McMichael paid an extended tribute. The departure is well known. Through this desire to honor Mr. Boker led his fellow- statesman Boker was enabled to checkcitizens to outdo themselves. The banquet mate Spain in the “Virginius” affair, and room was a scene of bounteous splendor even to bring about an apology from her which has probably never been equalled to the United States. Of Boker, Ignatieff in Philadelphia.” Wayne MacVeagh, his said once: “He is a man composed of predecessor, touched on "his unfailing true diplomatic stuff.” courage," while Bayard Taylor, long his Born in 1823 and a graduate of Princefriend in literary paths, spoke for his as- ton, he chose without much delay the sociates in letters:

career of letters. In 1856 his dramas Who, knowing him as man and poet long, and also his poems were brought out in As man and poet claim to love him best. two volumes, which in 1869 had passed to There is no continuous account of a third edition. His renown as a dramaBoker's diplomatic services. His friend, tist was practically at its height before Charles G. Leland, speaks of the cleanli- the war broke out. R. H. Stoddard has ness of his political life abroad. While called him the “creator of our poetic they were in Egypt, Leland addressed drama." With the war began a Boker as “Your Holiness," and replied to phase of his literary life—the writing of an astonished official who questioned him patriotic songs, of a popular, inspiriting as to the title, that all Americans were and yet not sensational type. “On Board appointed on the ground of their per- the Cumberland,” “The Black Regisonal piety. The official replied that ment” and “The Ballad of New OrBoker was the first convincing instance leans” had their day of influence, and of this practice which he had met. In deserve security from oblivion by an ocRussia he made a most favorable impres- casional reprinting in our patriotic an

a

[ocr errors]

new

thologies. There was an element of delib- in American politics and statesmanship; eration in Boker's thus stepping aside literature seems to have been in many from his social fastnesses to enter the.

cases a natural avenue to service abroad. lists as a writer of war songs.

Someone

The career of John L. Stevens was proin the Atlantic Monthly points out that gressive from the desk of a Maine newsBoker sedulously tried to show that one

paper to the filling of two important might observe all social usages and yet foreign missions.

Ill health compelled devote himself earnestly to literature. him to give up his duties as a clergyHe recognized, doubtless, the old antag- man and at thirty-five years of age he onism between “society" and the life of was associated with James G. Blaine in the imagination. Excellent as some of his the editing of the Kennebec Journal. work has been, especially in his sonnets, Later he became editor-in-chief, and held it is undeniable that Boker's work has not the position for many years. In 1870 he been taken with entire seriousness; the was sent as minister resident to Uruguay division of his abilities between two such and Paraguay. His political abilities were divergent exactions explains in part his of the persuasive order, and enabled him lack of a fast reputation. He was versa- to bring about peaceful relations in disaftile beyond question, even attaining to a fected portions of South America, to the high degree of skill as a mechanic. distinct advantage of American interests

His personal appearance had something in that troublous portion of the earth. to do with his successes. Early in his life One is reminded here of the earlier Willis had declared him “the handsomest yet important services rendered in Spanman in America.” He was six feet in ish-American disputes by Squier and the height, and Leland calls him “distingué,” other John L. Stephens, whose valuable and, again,“ the American Sidney of his lives are necessarily excluded by the time.” Modesty was characteristic of him, limitations of the present sketches. He and he never was first to allude to his remained only until 1873, though he writings. In his shyness he has been might have remained longer had he compared to Hawthorne.

chosen to do so. From 1877 to 1883 he During his missions he found little time was minister resident to Sweden and Norfor literature. In 1882, three years after way; and during this period he wrote his his return from Russia, he issued a vol- “History of Gustavus Adolphus.” On ume of sonnets, his latest work. He had this single volume rests Mr. Stevens's in his prime, according to Stoddard, the claim to be here introduced, but it by no essentials of great ability, “ fecundity of means represents the sum of his intellecconception and rapidity of execution." tual attainments. He was a ready master

As a representative American abroad he of languages, a diligent student of literawas irreproachable, and in attainments ture, pure and applied, and left at his death and social training he has been favorably in 1895 an excellent historical library. compared with Motley. Respectabil- The “Gustavus Adolphus” was received ity” may have proved his bane in litera- with commendation, even by the Nation, ture, though it was the mainspring of his with the qualification that Mr. Stevens had social and political life.

succeeded better as a biographer than as a

historian. It was a creditable work, and preJOHN LEAVITT STEVENS served the traditions of our representatives

who have wisely brought back from abroad Law has been the main road to success some intellectual fruit of their labors.

66

« PreviousContinue »