IN January 1907 I wrote an article for the North American Review on Mark Twain, in which I called him the greatest living American writer, which at that time seemed to many mere hyperbole.
On 12 February the Russian actress Alla Nazimova, who had just begun to act in English ('I have burnt my battles behind me') lunched at my house and gave an address to my students in Contemporary Drama. She said she enjoyed playing Ibsen more than Shakespeare because Shakespeare was statuesque (here she drew a statue in the air) and Ibsen was complex (she rolled her arms up dramatically). She declared that Norah would never return to her husband and as for her children, Norah would think more of her own life than of them. She was in the highest spirits and charmed the undergraduates. Shortly after this, she appeared in the theatre and after the play I took some of the students and one Princeton undergraduate to her dressing-room; and after the interview, the Princeton boy (bless his heart!) asked me, 'Is she married?' and when I told him I did not know, he said, 'Oh, Mr. Phelps, I do hope she isn't married.'
On 23 February I lectured at Hartford on Keats, and discovered after the lecture that a grand-daughter of George Keats was in the audience, accompanied by her two daughters. They were not enthusiastic over my emphasis on Keats's humble origin, which I had spoken of merely to accentuate the mystery of genius.