Autobiography of Seventy Years - Vol. 1

By George F. Hoar | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXI
SATURDAY CLUB

IN 1877, about the time of my election to the Senate, I was chosen a member of the famous Saturday Club. I always attended the meetings when I could be in Boston until after the death of my brother, when every man who was a member when I was chosen was dead, except Mr. Norton and Judge Gray and the younger Agassiz and Mr. Howells, and all of them had ceased to be constant attendants.

They used to meet at the Parker House in Boston once a month. Each member was at liberty to bring a guest.

I suppose there was never a merely social club with so many famous men in it or another where the conversation was more delightful since that to which Johnson and Burke and Goldsmith and Garrick and Reynolds belonged. There was plenty of sparkling wit and repartee and plenty of serious talk from philosophers and men of letters and science. Agassiz and Jeffries Wyman would sometimes debate Darwin's doctrine of evolution, which Darwin had confided to Asa Gray, another member, long before he made it known to the public. Holmes and Lowell contributed their wit, and Judge Hoar, whom Lowell declared the most brilliant man in conversation he had ever known, his shrewd Yankee sense and his marvellous store of anecdote. Some of the greatest members, notably Emerson and Longfellow and Whittier, were in general quite silent. But it was worth going a thousand miles if but to see one of them, or to hear the tones of his voice.

In the beginning I suspected Dr. Holmes of getting himself ready for the talk at the dinner as for a lecture. But I soon found that was utterly unjust. He was always as good if a new subject were brought up, which he could not have expected and which was wholly out of the range of his

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