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Renowned American journalist Richard Harding Davis helped define the genre of front-line reporting with his first-hand accounts of battlefield action in the Spanish-American war. Later, Davis went on to cover several additional conflicts in his inimitable style. Upon his return to the United States, he worked as a newspaper columnist for several prominent publications, where he tackled many of the toughest social issues of the day. This fascinating volume follows Davis's life on and off the battlefield. Richard Harding Davis (April 18, 1864 – April 11, 1916) was an American journalist and writer of fiction and drama, known foremost as the first American war correspondent to cover the Spanish–American War, the Second Boer War, and the First World War. His writing greatly assisted the political career of Theodore Roosevelt. He also played a major role in the evolution of the American magazine. His influence extended to the world of fashion, and he is credited with making the clean-shaven look popular among men at the turn of the 20th century.
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ADVENTURES & LETTERS OF RICHARD HARDING DAVIS
RICHARD HARDING DAVIS
Copyright © 2018 by Richard Harding Davis.
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations em- bodied in critical articles or reviews.
While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the publisher assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.
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Sheba Blake Publishing
Book and Cover design by Sheba Blake Publishing
First Edition: April 2018
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE EARLY DAYS
Richard Harding Davis was born in Philadelphia on April 18, 1864, but, so far as memory serves me, his life and mine began together several years later in the three-story brick house on South Twenty-first Street, to which we had just moved. For more than forty years this was our home in all that the word implies, and I do not believe that there was ever a moment when it was not the predominating influence in Richard's life and in his work. As I learned in later years, the house had come into the possession of my father and mother after a period on their part of hard endeavor and unusual sacrifice. It was their ambition to add to this home not only the comforts and the beautiful inanimate things of life, but to create an atmosphere which would prove a constant help to those who lived under its roof--an inspiration to their children that should endure so long as they lived. At the time of my brother's death the fact was frequently commented upon that, unlike most literary folk, he had never known what it was to be poor and to suffer the pangs of hunger and failure. That he never suffered from the lack of a home was certainly as true as that in his work he knew but little of failure, for the first stories he wrote for the magazines brought him into a prominence and popularity that lasted until the end. But if Richard gained his success early in life and was blessed with a very lovely home to which he could always return, he was not brought up in a manner which in any way could be called lavish. Lavish he may have been in later years, but if he was it was with the money for which those who knew him best knew how very hard he had worked.
In a general way, I cannot remember that our life as boys differed in any essential from that of other boys. My brother went to the Episcopal Academy and his weekly report never failed to fill the whole house with an impenetrable gloom and ever-increasing fears as to the possibilities of his future. At school and at college Richard was, to say the least, an indifferent student. And what made this undeniable fact so annoying, particularly to his teachers, was that morally he stood so very high. To "crib," to lie, or in any way to cheat or to do any unworthy act was, I believe, quite beyond his understanding. Therefore, while his constant lack of interest in his studies goaded his teachers to despair, when it came to a question of stamping out wrongdoing on the part of the student body he was invariably found aligned on the side of the faculty. Not that Richard in any way resembled a prig or was even, so far as I know, ever so considered by the most reprehensible of his fellow students. He was altogether too red-blooded for that, and I believe the students whom he antagonized rather admired his chivalric point of honor even if they failed to imitate it. As a schoolboy he was aggressive, radical, outspoken, fearless, usually of the opposition and, indeed, often the sole member of his own party. Among the students at the several schools he attended he had but few intimate friends; but of the various little groups of which he happened to be a member his aggressiveness and his imagination usually made him the leader. As far back as I can remember, Richard was always starting something--usually a new club or a violent reform movement. And in school or college, as in all the other walks of life, the reformer must, of necessity, lead a somewhat tempestuous, if happy, existence. The following letter, written to his father when Richard was a student at Swarthmore, and about fifteen, will give an idea of his conception of the ethics in the case:
SWARTHMORE--1880. DEAR PAPA:
I am quite on the Potomac. I with all the boys at our table were called up, there is seven of us, before Prex. for stealing sugar-bowls and things off the table. All the youths said, "O President, I didn't do it." When it came my turn I merely smiled gravely, and he passed on to the last. Then he said, "The only boy that doesn't deny it is Davis. Davis, you are excused. I wish to talk to the rest of them." That all goes to show he can be a gentleman if he would only try. I am a natural born philosopher so I thought this idea is too idiotic for me to converse about so I recommend silence and I also argued that to deny you must necessarily be accused and to be accused of stealing would of course cause me to bid Prex. good-by, so the only way was, taking these two considerations with each other, to deny nothing but let the good-natured old duffer see how silly it was by retaining a placid silence and so crushing his base but thoughtless behavior and machinations.
In the early days at home--that is, when the sun shone--we played cricket and baseball and football in our very spacious back yard, and the programme of our sports was always subject to Richard's change without notice. When it rained we adjourned to the third-story front, where we played melodrama of simple plot but many thrills, and it was always Richard who wrote the plays, produced them, and played the principal part. As I recall these dramas of my early youth, the action was almost endless and, although the company comprised two charming misses (at least I know that they eventually grew into two very lovely women), there was no time wasted over anything so sentimental or futile as love-scenes. But whatever else the play contained in the way of great scenes, there was always a mountain pass--the mountains being composed of a chair and two tables--and Richard was forever leading his little band over the pass while the band, wholly indifferent as to whether the road led to honor, glory, or total annihilation, meekly followed its leader. For some reason, probably on account of my early admiration for Richard and being only too willing to obey his command, I was invariably cast for the villain in these early dramas, and the end of the play always ended in a hand-to-hand conflict between the hero and myself. As Richard, naturally, was the hero and incidentally the stronger of the two, it can readily be imagined that the fight always ended in my complete undoing. Strangulation was the method usually employed to finish me, and, whatever else Richard was at that tender age, I can testify to his extraordinary ability as a choker.
But these early days in the city were not at all the happiest days of that period in Richard's life. He took but little interest even in the social or the athletic side of his school life, and his failures in his studies troubled him sorely, only I fear, however, because it troubled his mother and father. The great day of the year to us was the day our schools closed and we started for our summer vacation. When Richard was less than a year old my mother and father, who at the time was convalescing from a long illness, had left Philadelphia on a search for a complete rest in the country. Their travels, which it seems were undertaken in the spirit of a voyage of discovery and adventure, finally led them to the old Curtis House at Point Pleasant on the New Jersey coast. But the Point Pleasant of that time had very little in common with the present well-known summer resort. In those days the place was reached after a long journey by rail followed by a three hours' drive in a rickety stagecoach over deep sandy roads, albeit the roads did lead through silent, sweet-smelling pine forests. Point Pleasant itself was then a collection of half a dozen big farms which stretched from the Manasquan River to the ocean half a mile distant. Nothing could have been more primitive or as I remember it in its pastoral loveliness much more beautiful. Just beyond our cottage the river ran its silent, lazy course to the sea. With the exception of several farmhouses, its banks were then unsullied by human habitation of any sort, and on either side beyond the low green banks lay fields of wheat and corn, and dense groves of pine and oak and chestnut trees. Between us and the ocean were more waving fields of corn, broken by little clumps of trees, and beyond these damp Nile-green pasture meadows, and then salty marshes that led to the glistening, white sand-dunes, and the great silver semi- circle of foaming breakers, and the broad, blue sea. On all the land that lay between us and the ocean, where the town of Point Pleasant now stands, I think there were but four farmhouses, and these in no way interfered with the landscape or the life of the primitive world in which we played.
Whatever the mental stimulus my brother derived from his home in Philadelphia, the foundation of the physical strength that stood him in such good stead in the campaigns of his later years he derived from those early days at Point Pleasant. The cottage we lived in was an old two-story frame building, to which my father had added two small sleeping-rooms. Outside there was a vine-covered porch and within a great stone fireplace flanked by cupboards, from which during those happy days I know Richard and I, openly and covertly, must have extracted tons of hardtack and cake. The little house was called "Vagabond's Rest," and a haven of rest and peace and content it certainly proved for many years to the Davis family. From here it was that my father started forth in the early mornings on his all-day fishing excursions, while my mother sat on the sunlit porch and wrote novels and mended the badly rent garments of her very active sons. After a seven-o'clock breakfast at the Curtis House our energies never ceased until night closed in on us and from sheer exhaustion we dropped unconscious into our patch-quilted cots. All day long we swam or rowed, or sailed, or played ball, or camped out, or ate enormous meals--anything so long as our activities were ceaseless and our breathing apparatus given no rest. About a mile up the river there was an island--it's a very small, prettily wooded, sandy-beached little place, but it seemed big enough in those days. Robert Louis Stevenson made it famous by rechristening it Treasure Island, and writing the new name and his own on a bulkhead that had been built to shore up one of its fast disappearing sandy banks. But that is very modern history and to us it has always been "The Island." In our day, long before Stevenson had ever heard of the Manasquan, Richard and I had discovered this tight little piece of land, found great treasures there, and, hand in hand, had slept in a six-by-six tent while the lions and tigers growled at us from the surrounding forests.
As I recall these days of my boyhood I find the recollections of our life at Point Pleasant much more distinct than those we spent in Philadelphia. For Richard these days were especially welcome. They meant a respite from the studies which were a constant menace to himself and his parents; and the freedom of the open country, the ocean, the many sports on land and on the river gave his body the constant exercise his constitution seemed to demand, and a broad field for an imagination which was even then very keen, certainly keen enough to make the rest of us his followers.
In an extremely sympathetic appreciation which Irvin S. Cobb wrote about my brother at the time of his death, he says that he doubts if there is such a thing as a born author. Personally it so happened that I never grew up with any one, except my brother, who ever became an author, certainly an author of fiction, and so I cannot speak on the subject with authority. But in the case of Richard, if he was not born an author, certainly no other career was ever considered. So far as I know he never even wanted to go to sea or to be a bareback rider in a circus. A boy, if he loves his father, usually wants to follow in his professional footsteps, and in the case of Richard, he had the double inspiration of following both in the footsteps of his father and in those of his mother. For years before Richard's birth his father had been a newspaper editor and a well-known writer of stories and his mother a novelist and short-story writer of great distinction. Of those times at Point Pleasant I fear I can remember but a few of our elders. There were George Lambdin, Margaret Ruff, and Milne Ramsay, all painters of some note; a strange couple, Colonel Olcott and the afterward famous Madam Blavatsky, trying to start a Buddhist cult in this country; Mrs. Frances Hodgson Burnett, with her foot on the first rung of the ladder of fame, who at the time loved much millinery finery. One day my father took her out sailing and, much to the lady's discomfiture and greatly to Richard's and my delight, upset the famous authoress. At a later period the Joseph Jeffersons used to visit us; Horace Howard Furness, one of my father's oldest friends, built a summer home very near us on the river, and Mrs. John Drew and her daughter Georgie Barrymore spent their summers in a near-by hostelry. I can remember Mrs. Barrymore at that time very well---wonderfully handsome and a marvellously cheery manner. Richard and I both loved her greatly, even though it were in secret. Her daughter Ethel I remember best as she appeared on the beach, a sweet, long-legged child in a scarlet bathing-suit running toward the breakers and then dashing madly back to her mother's open arms. A pretty figure of a child, but much too young for Richard to notice at that time. In after-years the child in the scarlet bathing-suit and he became great pals. Indeed, during the latter half of his life, through the good days and the bad, there were very few friends who held so close a place in his sympathy and his affections as Ethel Barrymore.
Until the summer of 1880 my brother continued on at the Episcopal Academy. For some reason I was sent to a different school, but outside of our supposed hours of learning we were never apart. With less than two years' difference in our ages our interests were much the same, and I fear our interests of those days were largely limited to out-of-door sports and the theatre. We must have been very young indeed when my father first led us by the hand to see our first play. On Saturday afternoons Richard and I, unattended but not wholly unalarmed, would set forth from our home on this thrilling weekly adventure. Having joined our father at his office, he would invariably take us to a chop-house situated at the end of a blind alley which lay concealed somewhere in the neighborhood of Walnut and Third Streets, and where we ate a most wonderful luncheon of English chops and apple pie. As the luncheon drew to its close I remember how Richard and I used to fret and fume while my father in a most leisurely manner used to finish off his mug of musty ale. But at last the three of us, hand in hand, my father between us, were walking briskly toward our happy destination. At that time there were only a few first-class theatres in Philadelphia--the Arch Street Theatre, owned by Mrs. John Drew; the Chestnut Street, and the Walnut Street--all of which had stock companies, but which on the occasion of a visiting star acted as the supporting company. These were the days of Booth, Jefferson, Adelaide Neilson, Charles Fletcher, Lotta, John McCullough, John Sleeper Clark, and the elder Sothern. And how Richard and I worshipped them all--not only these but every small-bit actor in every stock company in town. Indeed, so many favorites of the stage did my brother and I admire that ordinary frames would not begin to hold them all, and to overcome this defect we had our bedroom entirely redecorated. The new scheme called for a gray wallpaper supported by a maroon dado. At the top of the latter ran two parallel black picture mouldings between which we could easily insert cabinet photographs of the actors and actresses which for the moment we thought most worthy of a place in our collection. As the room was fairly large and as the mouldings ran entirely around it, we had plenty of space for even our very elastic love for the heroes and heroines of the footlights.
Edwin Forrest ended his stage career just before our time, but I know that Richard at least saw him and heard that wonderful voice of thunder. It seems that one day, while my mother and Richard were returning home, they got on a street-car which already held the great tragedian. At the moment Forrest was suffering severely from gout and had his bad leg stretched well out before him. My brother, being very young at the time and never very much of a respecter of persons, promptly fell over the great man's gouty foot. Whereat (according to my mother, who was always a most truthful narrator) Forrest broke forth in a volcano of oaths and for blocks continued to hurl thunderous broadsides at Richard, which my mother insisted included the curse of Rome and every other famous tirade in the tragedian's repertory which in any way fitted the occasion. Nearly forty years later my father became the president of the Edwin Forrest Home, the greatest charity ever founded by an actor for actors, and I am sure by his efforts of years on behalf of the institution did much to atone for Richard's early unhappy meeting with the greatest of all the famous leather-lunged tragedians.
From his youth my father had always been a close student of the classic and modern drama, and throughout his life numbered among his friends many of the celebrated actors and actresses of his time. In those early days Booth used to come to rather formal luncheons, and at all such functions Richard and I ate our luncheon in the pantry, and when the great meal was nearly over in the dining-room we were allowed to come in in time for the ice-cream and to sit, figuratively, at the feet of the honored guest and generally, literally, on his or her knees. Young as I was in those days I can readily recall one of those lunch-parties when the contrast between Booth and Dion Boucicault struck my youthful mind most forcibly. Booth, with his deep-set, big black eyes, shaggy hair, and lank figure, his wonderfully modulated voice, rolled out his theories of acting, while the bald-headed, rotund Boucicault, his twinkling eyes snapping like a fox-terrier's, interrupted the sonorous speeches of the tragedian with crisp, witty criticisms or "asides" that made the rest of the company laugh and even brought a smile to the heavy, tragic features of Booth himself. But there was nothing formal about our relations with John Sleeper Clark and the Jefferson family. They were real "home folks" and often occupied our spare room, and when they were with us Richard and I were allowed to come to all the meals, and, even if unsolicited, freely express our views on the modern drama.
In later years to our Philadelphia home came Henry Irving and his fellow player Ellen Terry and Augustin Daly and that wonderful quartet, Ada Rehan, Mrs. Gilbert, James Lewis, and our own John Drew. Sir Henry I always recall by the first picture I had of him in our dining-room, sitting far away from the table, his long legs stretched before him, peering curiously at Richard and myself over black-rimmed glasses and then, with equal interest, turning back to the ash of a long cigar and talking drama with the famous jerky, nasal voice but always with a marvellous poise and convincing authority. He took a great liking to Richard in those days, sent him a church-warden's pipe that he had used as Corporal Brewster, and made much of him later when my brother was in London. Miss Terry was a much less formal and forbidding guest, rushing into the house like a whirlwind and filling the place with the sunshine and happiness that seemed to fairly exude from her beautiful magnetic presence. Augustin Daly usually came with at least three of the stars of his company which I have already mentioned, but even the beautiful Rehan and the nice old Mrs. Gilbert seemed thoroughly awed in the presence of "the Guv'nor." He was a most crusty, dictatorial party, as I remember him with his searching eyes and raven locks, always dressed in black and always failing to find virtue in any actor or actress not a member of his own company. I remember one particularly acrid discussion between him and my father in regard to Julia Marlowe, who was then making her first bow to the public. Daly contended that in a few years the lady would be absolutely unheard of and backed his opinion by betting a dinner for those present with my father that his judgment would prove correct. However, he was very kind to Richard and myself and frequently allowed us to play about behind the scenes, which was a privilege I imagine he granted to very few of his friends' children. One night, long after this, when Richard was a reporter in New York, he and Miss Rehan were burlesquing a scene from a play on which the last curtain had just fallen. It was on the stage of Daly's theatre at Thirtieth Street and Broadway, and from his velvet box at the prompt-entrance Daly stood gloomily watching their fooling. When they had finished the mock scene Richard went over to Daly and said, "How bad do you think I am as an actor, Mr. Daly?" and greatly to my brother's delight the greatest manager of them all of those days grumbled back at him: "You're so bad, Richard, that I'll give you a hundred dollars a week, and you can sign the contract whenever you're ready." Although that was much more than my brother was making in his chosen profession at the time, and in spite of the intense interest he had in the theatre, he never considered the offer seriously. As a matter of fact, Richard had many natural qualifications that fitted him for the stage, and in after-years, when he was rehearsing one of his own plays, he could and frequently would go up on the stage and read almost any part better than the actor employed to do it. Of course, he lacked the ease of gesture and the art of timing which can only be attained after sound experience, but his reading of lines and his knowledge of characterization was quite unusual. In proof of this I know of at least two managers who, when Richard wanted to sell them plays, refused to have him read them the manuscript on the ground that his reading gave the dialogue a value it did not really possess.
In the spring of 1880 Richard left the Episcopal Academy, and the following September went to Swarthmore College, situated just outside of Philadelphia. I fear, however, the change was anything but a success. The life of the big coeducational school did not appeal to him at all and, in spite of two or three friendships he made among the girls and boys, he depended for amusement almost wholly on his own resources. In the afternoons and on holidays he took long walks over the country roads and in search of adventure visited many farmhouses. His excuse for these calls was that he was looking for old furniture and china, and he frequently remained long enough to make sketches of such objects as he pretended had struck his artistic fancy. Of these adventures he wrote at great length to his mother and father, and the letters were usually profusely decorated with illustrations of the most striking incidents of the various escapades. Several of these Swarthmore experiences he used afterward in short stories, and both the letters and sketches he sent to his parents at the time he regarded in the light of preparation for his future work. In his studies he was perhaps less successful than he had been at the Episcopal Academy, and although he played football and took part in the track sports he was really but little interested in either. There were half-holidays on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and when my brother did not come to town I went to Swarthmore and we spent the afternoons in first cooking our lunch in a hospitable woods and then playing some games in the open that Richard had devised. But as I recall these outings they were not very joyous occasions, as Richard was extremely unhappy over his failures at school and greatly depressed about the prospects for the future.
He finished the college year at Swarthmore, but so unhappy had he been there that there was no thought in his mind or in that of his parents of his returning. At that time my uncle, H. Wilson Harding, was a professor at Lehigh University, and it was arranged that Richard should go to Bethlehem the following fall, live with his uncle, and continue his studies at Ulrich's Preparatory School, which made a specialty of preparing boys for Lehigh. My uncle lived in a charming old house on Market Street in Bethlehem, quite near the Moravian settlement and across the river from the university and the iron mills. He was a bachelor, but of a most gregarious and hospitable disposition, and Richard therefore found himself largely his own master, in a big, roomy house which was almost constantly filled with the most charming and cultivated people. There my uncle and Richard, practically of about the same age so far as their viewpoint of life was concerned, kept open house, and if it had not been for the occasional qualms his innate hatred of mathematics caused him, I think my brother would have been completely happy. Even studies no longer worried him particularly and he at once started in to make friendships, many of which lasted throughout his life. As is usual with young men of seventeen, most of these men and women friends were several times Richard's age, but at the period Richard was a particularly precocious and amusing youth and a difference of a few decades made but little difference--certainly not to Richard. Finley Peter Dunne once wrote of my brother that he "probably knew more waiters, generals, actors, and princes than any man who lived," and I think it was during the first year of his life at Bethlehem that he began the foundation for the remarkable collection of friends, both as to numbers and variety, of which he died possessed. Although a "prep," he made many friends among the undergraduates of Lehigh. He made friends with the friends of his uncle and many friends in both of the Bethlehems of which his uncle had probably never heard. Even at that early age he counted among his intimates William W. Thurston, who was president of the Bethlehem Iron Company, and J. Davis Brodhead, one of Pennsylvania's most conspicuous Democratic congressmen and attorneys. Those who knew him at that time can easily understand why Richard attracted men and women so much older than himself. He was brimming over with physical health and animal spirits and took the keenest interest in every one he met and in everything that was going on about him. And in the broadest sense he saw to it then, as he did throughout his life, that he always did his share.
During those early days at Bethlehem his letters to his family were full of his social activities, with occasional references to his work at school. He was always going to dinners or dances, entertaining members of visiting theatrical companies; and on Friday night my mother usually received a telegram, saying that he would arrive the next day with a party of friends whom he had inadvertently asked to lunch and a matinee. It was after one of these weekly visits that my mother wrote Richard the following:
Monday Night. MY DARLING Boy:
You went off in such a hurry that it took my breath at the last. You say coming down helps you. It certainly does me. It brings a real sunshine to Papa and me. He was saying that to-day. I gave Nolly a sort of holiday after her miseries last night. We went down street and got Papa a present for our wedding day, a picture, after all, and then I took Miss Baker some tickets for a concert. I saw her father who said he "must speak about my noble looking boy." I always thought him a genius but now I think him a man of penetration as well. Then Nolly and I went over to see the Russians. But they are closely boxed up and not allowed to-day to see visitors. So we came home cross and hungry. All evening I have been writing business letters.
Papa has gone to a reception and Charley is hard at work at his desk.
I answered Mr. Allen's letter this morning, dear, and told him you would talk to him. When you do, dear, talk freely to him as to me. You will not perhaps agree with all he says. But your own thoughts will be healthier for bringing them--as I might say, out of doors. You saw how it was by coming down here. Love of Christ is not a melancholy nor a morbid thing, dear love, but ought to make one more social and cheerful and alive.
I wish you could come home oftener. Try and get ahead with lessons so that you can come oftener. And when you feel as if prayer was a burden, stop praying and go out and try to put your Christianity into real action by doing some kindness--even speaking in a friendly way to somebody. Bring yourself into contact with new people--not John, Hugh, Uncle and Grandma, and try to act to them as Christ would have you act, and my word for it, you will go home with a new light on your own relations to Him and a new meaning for your prayers. You remember the prayer "give me a great thought to refresh me." I think you will find some great thoughts in human beings--they will help you to understand yourself and God, when you try to help them God makes you happy my darling.
It was in this year that Richard enjoyed the thrill of seeing in print his first contribution to a periodical. The date of this important event, important, at least, to my brother, was February 1, the fortunate publication was Judge, and the effusion was entitled "The Hat and Its Inmate." Its purport was an overheard conversation between two young ladies at a matinee and the editors thought so well of it that for the privilege of printing the article they gave Richard a year's subscription to Judge. His scrap-book of that time shows that in 1884 Life published a short burlesque on George W. Cable's novel, "Dr. Sevier," and in the same year The Evening Post paid him $1.05 for an article about "The New Year at Lehigh." It was also in the spring of 1884 that Richard published his first book, "The Adventures of My Freshman," a neat little paper-covered volume including half a dozen of the short stories that had already appeared in The Lehigh Burr. In writing in a copy of this book in later years, Richard said: "This is a copy of the first book of mine published. My family paid to have it printed and finding no one else was buying it, bought up the entire edition. Finding the first edition had gone so quickly, I urged them to finance a second one, and when they were unenthusiastic I was hurt. Several years later when I found the entire edition in our attic, I understood their reluctance. The reason the book did not sell is, I think, because some one must have read it."
In the summer of 1882 Richard went to Boston, and in the following letter unhesitatingly expressed his opinion of that city and its people.
July 1882. DEAR FAMILY:--
I left Newport last night or rather this morning. I stopped at Beverly and called on Dr. Holmes. He talked a great deal about mama and about a great many other things equally lovely in a very easy, charming way. All I had to do was to listen and I was only too willing to do that. We got along splendidly. He asked me to stay to dinner but I refused with thanks, as I had only come to pay my respects and put off to Dr. Bartol's. Dr. Holmes accompanied me to the depot and saw me safely off. Of all the lovely men I ever saw Dr. Bartol is the one. He lives in a great, many roomed with as many gables, house. Elizabethan, of course, with immense fireplaces, brass and dark woods, etchings and engravings, with the sea and rocks immediately under the window and the ocean stretching out for miles, lighthouses and more Elizabethan houses half hid on the bank, and ships and small boats pushing by within a hundred rods of the windows. I stayed to dinner there and we had a very jolly time. There were two other young men and another maiden besides Miss Bartol. They talked principally about the stage; that is, the Boston Stock Company, which is their sole thought and knowledge of the drama. The Dr. would strike off now and then to philosophizing and moralizing but his daughter would immediately sit upon him, much to my disgust but to the evident relief of the rest. His wife is as lovely as he is but I can't give it to you all now. Wait until I get home.
The young lady, the youths and myself came up to Boston together and had as pleasant a ride, as the heat would allow. I left them at the depot and went up to the Parker House and then to the Art Museum. The statuary is plaster, the coins are copies, and by the way, I found one exactly like mine, which, if it is genuine is worth, "well considerable", as the personage in charge remarked. The pictures were simply vile, only two or three that I recognized and principally Millet and some charcoal sketches of Hunt's, who is the Apostle of Art here. The china was very fine but they had a collection of old furniture and armor which was better than anything else. Fresh from or rather musty from these antiques, who should I meet but the cheerful Dixey and Powers. We had a very jolly talk and I enjoyed it immensely, not only myself but all the surrounding populace, as Dixey would persist in showing the youthful some new "gag," and would break into a clog or dialect much to the delectation of the admiring Bostonians. I am stranded here for to night and will push on to Newport to-morrow. I'll go see the "babes" to night, as there is nothing else in the city that is worth seeing that I haven't investigated. I left the Newburyportians in grief with regret. I met lots of nice people and every one was so very kind to me, from the authoresses to the serving maids. Good-bye.
In the fall of 1882 Richard entered Lehigh, but the first year of his college life varied very little from the one he had spent in the preparatory school. During that year he had met most of the upper classmen, and the only difference was that he could now take an active instead of a friendly interest in the life and the sports of the college. Also he had formed certain theories which he promptly proceeded to put into practical effect. Perhaps the most conspicuous of these was his belief that cane-rushes and hazing were wholly unnecessary and barbarous customs, and should have no place in the college of his day. Against the former he spoke at college meetings, and wrote long letters to the local papers decrying the custom. His stand against hazing was equally vehement, and he worked hand in hand with the faculty to eradicate it entirely from the college life. That his stand was purely for a principle and not from any fear of personal injury, I think the following letter to his father will show:
BETHLEHEM, February 1882. DEAR DAD:
You may remember a conversation we had at Squan about hazing in which you said it was a very black-guardly thing and a cowardly thing. I didn't agree with you, but when I saw how it really was and how silly and undignified it was, besides being brutal, I thought it over and changed my mind completely, agreeing with you in every respect. A large number of our class have been hazed, taking it as a good joke, and have been laughed at by the whole college. I talked to the boys about it, and said what I would do and so on, without much effect. Wednesday a junior came to me, and told me I was to be hazed as I left the Opera House Friday night. After that a great many came to me and advised and warned me as to what I should do. I decided to get about fifty of our class outside and then fight it out; that was before I changed my mind. As soon as I did I regretted it very much, but, as it turned out, the class didn't come, so I was alone, as I wished to be. You see, I'd not a very good place here; the fellows looked on me as a sort of special object of ridicule, on account of the hat and cane, walk, and so on, though I thought I'd got over that by this time. The Opera House was partly filled with college men, a large number of sophomores and a few upper class men. It was pretty generally known I was going to have a row, and that brought them as much as the show. Poor Ruff was in agony all day. He supposed I'd get into the fight, and he knew he'd get in, too, sooner or later. If he did he'd be held and not be able to do anything, and then the next day be blamed by the whole college for interfering in a class matter. He hadn't any money to get into the show, and so wandered around outside in the rain in a great deal more excited state than I was. Howe went all over town after putting on his old clothes, in case of personal damage, in search of freshmen who were at home out of the wet. As I left the building a man grabbed me by my arm, and the rest, with the seniors gathered around; the only freshman present, who was half scared to death, clung as near to me as possible. I withdrew my arm and faced them. "If this means hazing," I said, "I'm not with you. There's not enough men here to haze me, but there's enough to thrash me, and I'd rather be thrashed than hazed." You see, I wanted them to understand exactly how I looked at it, and they wouldn't think I was simply hotheaded and stubborn. I was very cool about it all. They broke in with all sorts of explanations; hazing was the last thing they had thought of. No, indeed, Davis, old fellow, you're mistaken. I told them if that was so, all right, I was going home. I saw several of my friends in the crowd waiting for me, but as I didn't want them to interfere, I said nothing, and they did not recognize me. When among the crowd of sophomores, the poor freshman made a last effort, he pulled me by the coat and begged me to come with him. I said no, I was going home. When I reached the next corner I stopped. "I gave you fair warning, keep off. I tell you I'll strike the first man, the first one, that touches me." Then the four who had been appointed to seize me jumped on me, and I only got one good blow in before they had me down in the gutter and were beating me on the face and head. I put my hands across my face, and so did not get any hard blows directly in the face. They slipped back in a moment, and when I was ready I scrambled up pretty wet and muddy, and with my face stinging where they had struck. It had all been done so quickly, and there was such a large crowd coming from the theatre, that, of course, no one saw it. When I got up there was a circle all around me. They hadn't intended to go so far. The men, except those four who had beaten me, were rather ashamed and wished they were out of it. I turned to Emmerich, a postgraduate, and told him to give me room. "Now," I said, "you're not able to haze me, and I can't thrash twelve of you, but I'll fight any one man you bring out." I asked for the man that struck me, and named another, but there was no response.
The upper classmen, who had just arrived, called out that was fair, and they'd see it fair. Goodnough, Purnell and Douglas, who don't like me much, either. Ruff was beside me by this time.
He hadn't seen anything of it, and did not get there until he heard me calling for a fair chance and challenging the class for a man. I called out again, the second time, and still no one came, so I took occasion to let them know why I had done as I did in a short speech to the crowd. I said I was a peaceable fellow, thought hazing silly, and as I never intended to haze myself, I didn't intend any one to haze me. Then I said again, "This is the third time, will one of your men fight this fair? I can't fight twelve of you." Just then two officers who had called on some mill-hands, who are always dying for a fight, and a citizen to help them, burst into the crowd of students, shouldering them around like sheep until they got to me, when one of them put his arm around me, and said, "I don't know anything about this crowd, but I'll see you're protected, sir. I'll give 'em fair play." One officer got hold of Ruff and pretty near shook him to pieces until I had to interfere and explain. They were for forming a body-guard, and were loud in their denunciations of the college, and declaring they'd see me through if I was a stranger to 'em.
Two or three of the sophomores, when they saw how things were going, set up a yell, but Griffin struck out and sent one of them flying one way and his hat another, so the yells ended. Howe and Murray Stuart took me up to their rooms, and Ruff went off for beefsteak for my eye, and treated the crowd who had come to the rescue, at Dixon's, to beer. The next day was Saturday, and as there was to be a meeting of the Athletic Association, of course, I wanted to show up. The fellows all looked at my eye pretty hard and said nothing. I felt pretty sure that the sympathy was all with me.
Four men are elected from the college to be on the athletic committee. They can be nominated by any one, though generally it is done by a man in their own class. We had agreed the day before to vote for Tolman for our class, so when the president announced nominations were in order for the freshmen class, Tolman was instantly nominated. At the same time one of the leading sophomores jumped up and nominated Mr. Davis, and a number of men from the same class seconded it. I knew every one in the college knew of what had happened, and especially the sophomores, so I was, of course, very much surprised. I looked unconscious, though, and waited. One of the seniors asked that the nominees should stand up, as they didn't know their names only their faces. As each man rose he was hissed and groaned down again. When I stood up the sophomores burst into a yell and clapped and stamped, yelling, "Davis! Davis! vote for D!" until I sat down. As I had already decided to nominate Tolman, I withdrew my name from the nominees, a movement which was received by loud cries of "No! No!" from the sophs. So, you see, Dad, I did as you said, as I thought was right, and came out well indeed. You see, I am now the hero of the hour, every one in town knows it, and every one congratulates me, and, "Well done, me boy," as Morrow '83 said, seems to be the idea, one gets taken care of in this world if you do what's the right thing, if it is only a street fight. In fact, as one of the seniors said, I've made five friends where I had one before. The sophs are ashamed and sorry, as their conduct in chapel, which was more marked, than I made it, shows. I've nothing to show for it but a red mark under the eye, and so it is the best thing that could possibly have happened. Poor Ruff hugged me all the way home, and I've started out well in a good way, I think, though not a very logical one.
Uncle says to tell you that my conduct has his approval throughout.
To which letter my father promptly replied:
PHILADELPHIA. February 25th, 1882. DEAR OLD BOY:
I'm glad the affair ended so well. I don't want you to fight, but if you have to fight a cuss like that do it with all your might, and don't insist that either party shall too strictly observe the Markis O' Queensbury rules. Hit first and hardest so that thine adversary shall beware of you.
At that time the secret societies played a very important part in the college life at Lehigh, and while I do not believe that Richard shared the theory of some of the students that they were a serious menace to the social fabric, he was quite firm in his belief that it was inadvisable to be a member of any fraternity. In a general way he did not like the idea of secrecy even in its mildest form, and then, as throughout his life, he refused to join any body that would in any way limit his complete independence of word or action. In connection with this phase of his college life I quote from an appreciation which M. A. De W. Howe, one of Richard's best friends both at college and in after-life, wrote for The Lehigh Burr at the time of my brother's death:
"To the credit of the perceptive faculty of undergraduates, it ought to be said that the classmates and contemporaries of Richard Harding Davis knew perfectly well, while he and they were young together, that in him Lehigh had a son so marked in his individuality, so endowed with talents and character that he stood quite apart from the other collegians of his day. Prophets were as rare in the eighties as they have always been, before and since, and nobody could have foreseen that the name and work of Dick Davis would long before his untimely death, indeed within a few years from leaving college, be better known throughout the world than those of any other Lehigh man. We who knew him in his college days could not feel the smallest surprise that he won himself quickly a brilliant name, and kept a firm hold upon it to the last.
"What was it that made him so early a marked man? I think it was the spirit of confidence and enthusiasm which turned every enterprise he undertook into an adventure,--the brave and humorous playing of the game of life, the true heart, the wholesome body and soul of my friend and classmate. He did not excel in studies or greatly, in athletics. But in his own field, that of writing, he was so much better than the rest of us that no one of his fellow-editors of the Epitome or Burr needed to be considered in comparison with him. No less, in spite of his voluntary nonmembership in the fraternities of his day, was he a leader in the social activities of the University. The `Arcadian Club' devoted in its beginnings to the `pipes, books, beer and gingeralia' of Davis's song about it and the `Mustard and Cheese' were his creations. In all his personal relationships he was the most amusing and stimulating of companions. With garb and ways of unique picturesqueness, rarer even in college communities a generation ago than at present, it was inevitable that he sometimes got himself laughed at as well as with. But what did it all matter, even then? To-day it adds a glow of color to what would be in any case a vivid, deeply valued memory.
"It is hard to foresee in youth what will come most sharply and permanently in the long run. After all these years it is good to find that Davis and what his companionship gave one hold their place with the strongest influences of Lehigh."
But Richard was naturally gregarious and at heart had a great fondness for clubs and social gatherings. Therefore, having refused the offer of several fraternities that did him the honor to ask him to become a member, it was necessary for him to form a few clubs that held meetings, but no secrets. Perhaps the most successful of these were "The Mustard and Cheese," a dramatic club devoted to the presentation of farces and musical comedies, and The Arcadia Club, to the fortnightly meetings of which he devoted much time and thought. The following letter to his father will give some idea of the scope of the club, which, as in the case of "The Mustard and Cheese," gained a permanent and important place in the social life of Lehigh.
We have started the best sort of a club up here which I am anxious to tell you of. It consists of a spread, net price of which will be about 30 cents each, every two or three weeks. Only six fellows belong and those the best of the College. Purnell, Haines and myself founded it. I chose Charley, Purnell, Reeves, Haines and Howe. We will meet Saturday nights at 9 so as not to interfere with our work, and sing, read, eat and box until midnight. It is called the "Pipe and Bowl," and is meant to take the place that The Hasty Pudding, Hammer and Tongs and Mermaid do at other colleges. Two of us are to invite two outsiders in turn each meeting. We will hope to have Dad a member, honorary, of course, when we can persuade him to give us a night off with his company. We want to combine a literary feature and so will have selected readings to provoke discussions after the pipes are lit. The men are very enthusiastic about it and want to invite Mr. Allen and you and every one that they can make an honorary member of immediately.
It was first as an associate editor and afterward as editor-in-chief of the college paper, The Lehigh Burr, that Richard found his greatest pleasure and interest during his three years at Lehigh. In addition to his editorial duties he wrote a very great part of every issue of the paper, and his contributions included short stories, reports of news events, editorials, and numerous poems.
As, after his life at college, Richard dropped verse as a mode of expression, I reprint two of the poems which show him in the lighter vein of those early days.
A COMMENCEMENT IDYL
"I'm a Freshman who has ended his first year, But I'm new; And I do whate'er the Juniors, whom I fear, Bid me do. Under sudden showers I thrive; To be bad and bold I strive, But they ask--`Is it alive?' So they do.
I'm a Sophomore who has passed off his exams, Let me loose! With a mark as high as any other man's, As obtuse I'm fraternal. I am Jolly. I am seldom melancholy And to bone I think is folly, What's the use?
I'm a Junior whom exams. have left forlorn, Flunked me dead; So I'll keep the town awake 'till early morn; Paint it red. At class-meetings I'm a kicker, Take no water with my liquor, And a dumb-bell's not thicker Than my head.
I'm a Senior whose diploma's within reach, Eighty-four. On Commencement Day you'll hear my maiden-speech; I will soar! I got through without condition; I'm a mass of erudition; Do you know of a position!"
"Our street is still and silent, Grass grows from curb to curb,
No baker's bells With jangling knells Our studious minds disturb. No organ grinders ever call, No hucksters mar our peace; For traffic shuns our neighborhood And leaves us to our ease.
But now it lives and brightens, Assumes a livelier hue; The pavements wide, On either side, Would seem to feel it too. You might not note the difference, The change from grave to gay, But I can tell, and know full well, Priscilla walks our way."
Shortly after his return to college Richard celebrated his nineteenth birthday, and received these letters from his father and mother:
April 17th, 1883. MY DEAR BOY:
When I was thinking what I could give to you to-morrow, I remembered the story of Herder, who when he was old and weak and they brought him food and wine asked for "a great thought to quicken him."
So I have written some old sayings for you that have helped me. Maybe, this year, or some other year, when I am not with you, they may give you, sometimes, comfort and strength.
God bless you my son--
YOUR OLD MOTHER
who loves you dearly--dearly.
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER PHILADELPHIA, April 17th, 1883.
MY DEAR BOY:
You are to be nineteen years old on Wednesday. After two years more you will be a man. You are so manly and good a boy that I could not wish you to change in any serious or great thing. You have made us very happy through being what you have been, what you are. You fill us with hope of your future virtue and usefulness.
To be good is the best thing of all; it counts for more than anything else in the world. We are very grateful that you have even in youth been wise enough to choose the right road. You will find it not easy to keep upon it always, but remember if you do get off struggle back to it. I do not know but I think God loves the effort to do as well as the act done.
I congratulate you my dear son, on your new birthday. I wish you health, happiness and God's loving care. May he bless you my son forever. I enclose a trifle for your pleasure. My love to you always, but God bless you dear Dick.
In the fall of 1885, Richard decided to leave Lehigh and go to John Hopkins University, where he took a special course in such studies as would best benefit him in the career which he had now carefully planned. During this year in Baltimore Richard's letters show that he paid considerable attention to such important subjects as political economy and our own labor problems, but they also show that he did not neglect football or the lighter social diversions. In a short space of time he had made many friends, was very busy going to dinners and dances, and had fallen in love with an entirely new set of maids and matrons. Richard had already begun to send contributions to the magazines, and an occasional acceptance caused him the satisfaction common to all beginners. It was in regard to one of these early contributions that my mother wrote Richard the following letter:
January 1887. DEAR BOY:
What has become of The Current? It has not come yet. If it has suspended publication be sure and get your article back. You must not destroy a single page you write. You will find every idea of use to you hereafter.
Sometimes I am afraid you think I don't take interest enough in your immediate success now with the articles you send. But I've had thirty years experience and I know how much that sort of success depends on the articles suiting the present needs of the magazine, and also on the mood of the editor when he reads it.
Besides--except for your own disappointment--I know it would be better if you would not publish under your own name for a little while. Dr. Holland--who had lots of literary shrewdness both as writer and publisher--used to say for a young man or woman to rush into print was sure ruin to their lasting fame. They either compromised their reputations by inferior work or they made a great hit and never played up to it, afterwards, in public opinion.
Now my dear old man this sounds like awfully cold comfort. But it is the wisest idea your mother has got. I confess I have GREAT faith in you--and I try to judge you as if you were not my son. I think you are going to take a high place among American authors, but I do not think you are going to do it by articles like that you sent to The Current. The qualities which I think will bring it to you, you don't seem to value at all. They are your dramatic eye. I mean your quick perception of character and of the way character shows itself in looks, tones, dress, etc., and in your keen sympathy--with all kinds of people--Now, these are the requisites for a novelist. Added to that your humour.
You ought to make a novelist of the first class. But you must not expect to do it this week or next. A lasting, real success takes time, and patient, steady work. Read Boz's first sketches of "London Life" and compare them with "Sydney Carton" or "David Copperfield" and you will see what time and hard work will do to develop genius.
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