BOSTON, December 3, 1879
DEAR FOLKS AT HOME,
It is all over, and I still live, though a good deal bewizzled with excitement. I had an unalloyed good time.
Rose had a carriage ordered for half-past eleven. We alighted at the hotel, and, going in, asked for the dressing rooms for the Atlantic Breakfast. Presently an immense commanding fat strong-minded ideal L. L. came sailing in, who we afterwards learned was Mrs. Sherwood — ‘M. E. W. S.’— and a pretty young woman with a cloud of golden hair, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop.
Mrs. Stowe greeted me most affectionately, ‘Are you Sarah Terry’s daughter?’ More ladies came in. I was introduced to Lucy Larcom, and several others I forget. Mr. Osgood took me out, remarking some nice things about my stories in a perfunctory way, to which I replied perfunctorily. He led me into the reception room, where there was a great crowd, and consigned me to Houghton, who struggled up to where dear Oliver stood, his back to a window, in such a glare of light you couldn’t see him, though he could vividly see you. I said I presumed he had forgotten the letter I wrote him last summer, but I hadn’t forgotten the answer he sent me, and was glad of a chance to thank him for it. ‘Ah, yes,’ he said, ‘I receive a great many letters and it is impossible for me to remember them all.’ I said of course he couldn’t, but we remember the answers he sent us.
I had a lovely talk with Miss Sprague, ‘The Earnest Trifler,’ with Miss Larcom and Mrs. Whitney, Mrs. Warner and a Mr. Somebody of Harvard, who told me my second story reminded him of Browning’s Ring and the Book, only there wasn’t so much prose in it.
Houghton, Osgood, and Company were flying about anxiously with diagrams. Rose came after me to introduce me to Howells, who wanted to pair me off with my escort. ‘Well, Miss Carrington,’ he says, ‘your story woke up the contributors, didn’t it?’ I said yes, I was much obliged to him for allowing the discussion; it was very amusing to me. ‘Well,’ he says, ‘they seemed to want to talk about it, so I thought I’d let ‘em.’ He then consigned me to Mr. Lathrop, whom I found an enjoyable companion.
He was a very nice-looking young man (married Kitty), editor of a Sunday paper in Boston. I couldn’t for the life of me remember anything he had written, and when he kindly confessed an anonymous novel, Afterglow, I had read it, but couldn’t possibly remember the least clew to It. But I did remember some very flattering reviews of it and pleased him by attending to them. It would have upset you completely to hear me ‘talk shop’ with him.
Rose was up at one of the swell tables alongside Emerson, looking as if her position were more exalted and honorable than agreeable. They adroitly put a table of great folk at each end that no one might feel at the ‘tail end.’
Mr. Howells told me about half those invited had come, and as they invited a good many besides the contributors, they can’t have asked all of the latter, for there are about a thousand, Mr. Houghton said in his speech.
Oliver’s poem was fine, though rather sad, but delivered with great spirit and effect. Mr. Howells’ speech was most felicitous; he delivered his happy hits slowly and deliberately, and then, as we all laughed and clapped him, stood smiling and looking as if he couldn’t help being amused himself. Mark Twain was very funny and most heartily clapped and laughed at. I enjoyed all the poems and speeches. Mrs. Julia Ward Howe read a poem.
They broke up at half-past six, and after leaving my autograph with everybody else’s, I came home.