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year-a prolific literary harvest. At the opening of the year 1858, I wrote to him: "The contract with Mr. Putnam, to begin April 1st, has been executed." By this contract, Mr. Putnam, who had made a full settlement of their present business, was to act as his agent, Mr. Irving purchasing from him the stereotype plates of all his works. I had written to him on the 31st of December: "In taking a business retrospect of the year that is just closing, it may be a satisfaction to you to know that you have received from Mr. Putnam, in the course of it, what is equivalent to twenty-five thousand dollars. Though the close of the year has been attended with some annoyances, I think, therefore, you may bid it farewell with a blessing."
At the date of the following letter to his niece, at Paris, Mr. Irving was trying, with apparent benefit, a prescription for an obstinate catarrh, which had been very troublesome of late. Three days after its date (February 18th), I was led, by some anxiety in regard to his health, to the cottage, to spend a few days. A temporary deafness, which had been shifting from one ear to the other, had now reached both ears, so that I found it necessary to speak above my natural tone to be heard by him. He was troubled, also, with difficulty of breathing, especially in making ascents, and told me that he had been sensible, for some time, of shortness of breath, in going up hill, to an unusual degree. It was evident to him that the "harp of thousand strings" was no longer "in tune." "But I cannot complain now," said he to me, "if some of the
chords should be breaking." That morning, for the first time in about a month, he had taken pen in hand and written a page on his historical task. December 14th, he had written me that he was "in the vein, and anxious to complete the rough draft of his final volume."
[To Mrs. Storrow.]
SUNNYSIDE, February 15, 1858.
MY DEAR SARAH:
Your letter of January 9th came to me like a reproach, making me feel my delinquency in not having answered your previous letter; but I am unavoidably a delinquent on this score, my weary brain being overtasked by my literary undertakings, and unable to cope with the additional claims of an overwhelming correspondence. I am endeavoring to accomplish a fifth volume, wherewith to close the "Life of Washington," but I work more slowly than heretofore. For two or three years past I have been troubled by an obstinate catarrh, but this winter it has been quite harassing, at times quite stupefying me. Recently I have put myself under medical treatment, and begin to feel the benefit of it.
Mr. Storrow must have brought you lamentable accounts of the state of affairs in this country during the late revulsion. He was here in the height of the storm, when we seemed to be threatened with an almost universal shipwreck. Happily, the crisis is past; things are returning to order, but it will take some time for business to regain its usual activity. . Fortunately, I have experienced but a very moderate loss in my investments, and my relations with my publisher have been placed on a different footing, which, I trust, will prove advantageous to us both.
I have never been more struck with the energy and elasticity of the national character than in observing how spiritedly it has struggled with this overwhelming calamity, and is exerting itself, amid the ruins of past
prosperity, to build up the edifice anew. The crisis has been felt sorely in my immediate neighborhood, among those who were largely in business, some of whom have been completely ruined; yet they have borne their reverses manfully, and are looking forward hopefully to better times.
I have a very pleasant social neighborhood; and it has been more social than usual this winter, people seeming to draw closer together and seek refuge in cordial intercourse from external evils. Indeed, I am so happy in my neighborhood, and the home feeling has grown so strong with me, that I go very little to town, and have scarcely slept a dozen nights there within the last twelve months. Perhaps it is the effect of gathering years, to settle more and more into the quiet of one's elbow-chair.
You have no doubt learned, before this, that the G- -s intend to set out, in June next, on a European tour. I can easily imagine what a delightful meeting it will be when you all come together. I wish they could bring you all back with them, and put an end to your protracted absence from your natural home, which I cannot help considering a protracted
With kind remembrances to Mr. Storrow, and love to the young folks, your affectionate uncle,
February 19th, 1858; at Sunnyside.-Mr. Irving had been kept awake until after three by coughing, yet seemed in tolerable spirits at breakfast, and resumed his writing after it. The next day he got speaking of George Frederick Cooke, the eminent performer. "He was a great actor," he said; "a great actor. The finest group I ever saw, was at Covent Garden, when Cooke, after long disgrace for his intemperance, reappeared on the boards to play Iago to John Kemble's Othello. Mrs. Siddons played Desdemona, and Charles Kemble Cassio, beauti
fully. Kemble [John] had sent for Cooke to rehearse with him at his room, but Cooke would not go. 'Let Black Jack'-so he called Kemble-'come to me.' So they went on the boards without previous rehearsal. In the scene in which Iago instills his suspicion, Cooke grasped Kemble's left hand with his own, and then fixed his right, like a claw, on his shoulder. In this position, drawing himself up to him with his short arm, he breathed his poisonous whispers. Kemble coiled and twisted his hand, writhing to get away-his right hand clasping his brow, and darting his eye back on Iago. It was wonderful. Speaking to Cooke of the effect on me of this scene, after his arrival in New York [in 1810], 'Didn't I play up to Black Jack!' he exclaimed. 'I saw his dark eye sweeping back upon me.'
"I was at John Howard Payne's, near Corlier's Hook, the night of Cooke's arrival in New York. I was there by invitation, to meet him. Cooke came in a little flustered with drink. Was very much exasperated at the detention at the Custom House of some silver cups, possibly presents, he had brought with him, and would break forth, every now and then, with, 'Why did they keep my cups? They knew they would melt!' with significant emphasis. He was harsh and abusive when drunk, but full of courtesy when sober." Mr. Irving dwelt upon the easy jollity" with which he played Falstaff. 'Hodgkinson" [whom, probably, some living may yet remember on the boards of the old Park Theatre] 66 was a little fus
tian in tragedy, but capital in comedy and farce. He was finer than Cooper in Petruchio. Cooper was harsh. With Hodgkinson, you could see the fun at the bottom' of his treatment to Catherine."
I asked which he preferred-John Kemble, or Cooke? "Kemble had, perhaps, more the sympathy of his audience, because he played nobler characters-Cooke, the villains; but, in his range, which was limited, he was the greatest actor."
Speaking afterward of artists, he remarked: "Jarvis tried, but failed, to embody my conception of Diedrich Knickerbocker. Leslie also. Darley hit it in the illustrated History of New York.' My idea was that he should carry the air of one profoundly impressed with the truth of his own 'History.'
"Allston was always the gentleman. Would talk by the hour. Liked to talk. A capital teller of ghost stories. Would act them with voice, eyes, gesture. Had touches of gentle humor. Rather indolent. Would lie late in bed. Smoked cigars. A man of real genius. A noble painter. It was a pity he came back [in 1818]; he would have risen to the head of his art-been the greatest painter of his day."
The foregoing, and the anecdotes which follow, I give from rough notes made at the time.
March 23d, 1858 (still at Sunnyside).-Mr. Irving mentioned, after breakfast, a dream of the night before, that he had killed one of the little birds that had commenced