The Early Years of the Saturday Club, 1855-1870

By Edward Waldo Emerson | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTORY

TWELVE years ago the Saturday Club sent to me, absent, its mandate to do it a service, honourable but difficult. Mr. Norton, our President at that time, last survivor, revered and loved, of the fellowship of the earlier years, wrote: "The Club is about fifty years old, and it occurred to me that it would be well if a history of it were written before its story became faint, and before more legends of dubious validity gathered around it. . . . I spoke of this, a day or two since, to President Eliot, and found that he was quite of my mind. When he asked me who could do the work, I told him that I hoped you might be willing to undertake it, and this suggestion he received. . . . I hope you will entertain it readily, and even that it may allure you. The subject seems to have many attractions, for it admits of studies of the character of many of the most remarkable men in our community during the last half-century."

I wrote at once to Mr. Norton that I was much honoured by being deemed fit by the Club for so interesting a work, but saying that I could not feel that I was so, not having been chosen a member until it had existed a third of a century when most of the first glorious company of friends were gone, and urged that he, who knew them so well, would write his memories. He answered that he was too old to do so, but would gladly receive me at his home and help me with his recollections. So it seemed that I must do, as best I might, the will of the Club. I had to ask its patience, being already pledged to a task only lately brought to an end. I gladly availed myself of the invitation of this hereditary friend, and in his delightful study passed three or four mornings asking questions and taking notes of his memories, but I had no right to weary him. It is sad to think how much more I might have learned that no one now can tell, and soon he was taken away. Others, too, have gone, or their memories become dim. But still I have had the privilege of hearing from persons of an older generation -- some of them ladies -- reminiscences of our great

-xi-

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