The Letters of John Fiske

By Ethel F. Fisk ; John Fiske | Go to book overview
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Cambridge, January 31, 1901.

Dear James:

I enclose a characteristic and amusing letter from Tom Perry from Japan:

44 Sahurada Machi, Ayabu, Tokyo
December 17, 1900.

You dear old John Fiske:

I like to write to a man who won't answer me, who would like to but can't. To him one can say anything; if he has any answer ready he will postpone writing and in 6 months I shall be back with new insults. Not that I am now loaded with insults, far from it. I do rather exult, and in this wise. I remember years ago, it was one of those golden Sundays when I was lunching with you and I had been browsing among your books, Voltaire happened to be mentioned. You said that you longed for the time when you might read all his letters, but, you confessed, you should never do it. Now that's just what I am doing. Arch-deacon Shaw the other day showed me, hidden behind various most estimable works of theology, Voltaire's infamous volumes, and now the worst weather of Tokyo has for me no terrors. What a creature Voltaire is! He and Napoleon show that genius is only an amplification of human qualities; what we see every day, only more so. Exactly as the 7 ft. high is but the man of 5 ft. prolonged. Yes, as Dr. Johnson said, it is easy to grow to 6 ft. but hard to grow to 7—or words to that effect.

The letters are delightful and I thank heaven that I never read them before. Witty, clever, amusing, I couldn't have made a wiser choice for my declining years. And to think that I never sent them to Hercules Fay, who would have enjoyed them so much!

I spoke of my hint, concerning the American Constitution, to Griffin of the Imp'l Univ'y, and he suggested as the causa causans, the existence of charters in the earlier colonial history. This may be as it is—he added, and I think this is true, that the political influence of N.E. was confined to N.E. I will once more say that the N.E. Tories have never had justice done them.

This letter will reach you only when the new century has begun. It will have at lat. 18O° an extra day which you won't have—though where we least want an extra day is in mid-Pacific. Coming out I was glad to give one up—to repent all the blunders of XIX now current.

My work finishes in April, and I expect that we shall be back at the end of July. If I do get home, how we shall talk! You mustn't mind crazy


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