Tom Watson, Agrarian Rebel

By C. Vann Woodward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXV
The Tertium Quid

WATSON'S RETURN TO WASHINGTON after thirty years was like the emergence of a hermit, already a little legendary. Although those thirty years had been filled with intense activity, Watson himself had been virtually immured at Hickory Hill for a generation--flashing out with comet-like regularity at intervals, but quickly retiring again. He was regarded as a curious anachronism from the 'nineties, with "a good deal of the temperament of a French Revolutionist." Amidst the reactionary element swept into Washington with Harding he was indeed an oddity.

He and his wife had few connections in the city, and they found social honors empty after the death of the children. To prevent his going to a White House reception in street clothes, Mrs. Lytle bought him a dress suit. There was no "small talk" in him. A complimentary pleasantry from Mrs. Harding caught him quite without reply. The old note of disillusionment with attainment recurs. He made known his disgust with Harding's inaugural: "replete with oracles, maxims, proverbs, safe generalities and orthodox truisms." He was never quite reconciled to finding no Websters in the Senate with whom to match wits. Moody spells accompanied by morbid drinking and attacks of asthma interrupted his work, and he was heard to say he was "ready to die."1

____________________
1
Interview with Mrs. A. L. Lytle, Aug. 8, 1934; Columbia Sentinel, March 14, 1921.

-475-

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