Wednesday, May 18, 2011
There was a movement underway in 1909 to admit women to Columbia Law School, but Edward didn’t have time for such foolishness. He was studying to become, like his father and grandfather before him, a lawyer. He lived a comparatively monastic life in the new Livingston Hall dormitory on Washington Heights, endlessly debating with his friends from the Law Review George Gordon and Harold Medina; Harold, who would go on to become a federal judge, complained “in all that Socratic method I found out why they gave that hemlock to Socrates - he deserved every bit of it.”
Max, Edward’s brother, moved to the city as well. After briefly teaching at a settlement house in Boston, he managed, through the father of a friend, to catch on as a cub reporter for the New York Times. He lived in a cold-water flat on 7th Street and headed uptown to the Harvard Club (or his Mother’s apartment on on 11th Street) for a hot bath. While Edward learned the theory of the law on Morningside Heights, Max covered murders in Chinatown, midnight suicides, rent strikes on the Lower East Side; he got strapped in the electric chair at Sing-Sing for one story, covered William Jennings Bryan’s final speech at Madison Square Garden for another, and took a sixty-mile-per-hour test drive with race-car driver George Robertson in his Locomobile.
Louise Saunders had her eyes on the dashing young reporter. Louise had a fine figure, almond eyes, light brown hair, a winning smile, and a small straight nose. Every Sunday morning the Saunders sat three rows behind the Perkins at Plainfield’s Holy Cross Episcopal Church, and Louise followed Max's dreamy gaze up to the silver stars set in the cerulean ceiling over the nave. Louise’s father was the head of Ingersoll Rand and good friends with Woodrow Wilson, the president of Princeton. Louise, who had artistic aspirations, had her father convert a stable behind their house into a small theater where she staged intimate productions for her neighbors. Max was taken by her creative temperament and clever personality, and accompanied Louise to her family’s place at Sea Girt on the Jersey shore, to swim and picnic that summer of 1909. He left his pajamas behind and wrote to retrieve them; Louise couldn’t find the PJs, so she sent Max a bathing suit instead, “Here are your pajamas, I’m afraid they have suffered a sea change into something rich and strange.”
Max invited Louise to Windsor. Fanny, his younger sister, spied on the lovebirds spooning in the parlor; holding a pin cushion between them “they just gazed into each other’s eyes and seemed very much in love.”
On New Year’s Eve, 1910, Max, 26, married Louise, 22, under the starry heaven sky of Holy Cross Church. The young couple took their winter honeymoon in a small cottage across the river from Windsor in Cornish. When they returned to New Jersey, they moved into the house in North Plainfield which Louise’s father bought for them. The first thing they did was to return all the junk they received as presents and buy a statue of Venus de Milo, and then Max started his new job in the advertising department of Charles Scribner’s and Sons.
Mercy! This generation was coming of age quickly. Eleven years earlier, when sister Fanny was only seven, Archibald Cox, a young patent attorney eighteen years her senior, had spotted her walking down the steps of her parents’ home in Plainfield and declared, “That’s the girl I am going to marry!” Now Fanny was graduating from Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, and on June 7th 1911, the family travelled en masse back to Boston and eighteen year old Fanny married thirty-six year old Archie Cox at the old Cleveland home Nutwood, next to Oakwood and Pinebank, on Jamaica Pond.
The new generation was spreading its wings. Edward graduated from law school and caught on with the law firm of Lord, Day and Lord on Wall Street was admitted to the New York Bar in November 1912. The following May he moved on to the office of Gordon, Gordon where his prospects seemed even brighter.
His brother and sister started growing their families. Fanny brought her baby “Billy” (Archibald Cox Jr.) to Windsor for the first time that summer of 1912, while Max and Louise brought their baby girl “Bert”. Summers in Windsor were gay indeed!
The summer of 1913, President Wilson made his summer White House in Cornish, and Percy Mackaye wrote and produced a "Bird Masque", a poetic plea for the preservation of endangered birds. The President’s daughter Eleanor played the lead role of Ornis the bird spirit, and her sister Margaret sang the song of "The Hermit Thrush". Louise had promised Max that she would give up her theatrical aspirations after their marriage, but she couldn’t resist the opportunity to appear in a lead role as the Hermit Thrush, supported by the other youth and beauty of the Evarts, Cox, Saint Gaudens, and Maxfield Parrish families. The President and Mrs. Wilson were in the audience, but the artists, poets, playwrights and literary folk were used to notoriety and paid little heed to the politician’s presence.
In 1914 Max was made an editor at Scribners “to keep the company from going bankrupt” from his advertising career, as Edward quipped. Charlie Scribner, Edward’s old charge from St. Paul’s, had just graduated from Princeton in 1913. Charlie, who never pretended to be “literary”, fell in with the young editor whose brother had been his master at SPS. The two young men would take the open-caged elevator up to the fifth floor of the new Beaux Arts building on Fifth Avenue; getting off the elevator they passed under the plaster busts of the great printers: Franklin, Gutenberg, Caxton, and Aldus. While Max dived into the slush pile, eager to find young talent, Charlie found his role by becoming a “friend” and a champion to young writers, and found the voice to speak up to his stodgy relatives and persuade them to explore the bright new voices coming on the scene.
Sister Molly Perkins married Thomas Thomas at St. Stephen’s Church in Plainfield on February 28 1914. Louis and Carlie were ushers and Betty Evarts was the Maid of Honor; the couple soon sailed to Florence, where their father had been born and where the Perkins family had lived for so many years. Brother Carley who had just graduated from Harvard, was thinking about following his oldest brother into law school, and was courting Louise’s cousin Emily Saunders. Emily was the daughter of W. B. Saunders, who founded a publishing house dedicated to publishing medical books (W.B. Saunders Company would go on to its greatest commercial success in 1948 when it published the Kinsey Report). Louis, the baby of the family, was off at the “prosperous and well dressed” St. George’s School in Newport, where the family had summered for so many years.
Edward, the oldest son, may have had his head in the law books, but he may also have noticed Kate Riggs when she made her debut at Delmonico’s ten days before Max and Louise’s wedding in 1910. Kate had a puckish bob to her nose, straight brown hair, a patrician neck and eyes and a brow that displayed a knowing intelligence greater than her years. The Riggs were the “President’s Bankers” who founded the Riggs Bank in Washington. Edward certainly knew of Kate’s cousin Dudley Riggs who had been a big football star at St. Paul’s and an All-American guard at Princeton and raised champion hunters and beagles in the Green Spring Valley in Maryland (and who would die suddenly of “foot and mouth” disease in 1913), and he must have heard when Kate’s mother died in 1911 in Ridgefield Connecticut.
Edward Newton Perkins married Kate Cheeseman Riggs in April of 1915 at the Church of the Transfiguration in New York City. She wore a white satin gown cut on long, full lines, with a full tulle veil held in place by sprays of orange blossoms. Her sister, Maria Louisa Crane, was matron of honor, George Gordon, from the law review was best man, and Edward's old friend from Plainfield, Ames Brooks, who had graduated from Harvard Law, was an usher. Uncle Prescott Evarts, who had been his family contact in Cambridge, conducted the ceremony, as he did for everyone in the family.
Kate claimed to “have the soul of a char”, and her friends made her hats and hauled her off to Bloomingdales to freshen her up from her “thrift shop” look, but within her casual down-to-earth demeanor, was a woman of great composure and class.
New York – March 4, 1930
I take my pen in hand etc., and you will probably be sorry that I did before you get through this, as I feel very conversational and Ed is out and the children in bed, and the more I write the more unintelligible my handwriting gets and the worse my spelling. The truth is I am rather gloomy at the moment – I’ve given up smoking- I’ve just thrown the last cigarette I’ll ever smoke into the fire – and I have to tell someone about it, that’s that. There are no men in the house, so you can see how final that is.
You were grand to send me those seeds; I’m so excited about them. You were a peach too gather them, and oh how I hope we’ll have a nice warm Italian sun in Tyringham next summer to make them grow. As like as not if they do, I will have an Italian statue in the garden, and from that to turning “Glencote” into pink stucco is, I’m sure you’ll see, only a step. Maybe it would be as well if they don’t grow at that rate. It sounds expensive.
You really can’t stay away too long, as heavens knows what will happen to our house if you do. My bedroom is a dream of Victorian propriety and I feel it slowly influencing my character – giving up smoking for instance (I’ve still given it up) is merely a beginning . . .
Have you ever thought how awful it would be when you were giving a dinner party in town if no one turned up? People are so late all the time that I often think they have forgotten to come. Last Friday I had a dinner, rare and expensive food (you know what I mean, not hash in other words) was prepared, cocktails mixed, flowers bought, hardest of all, the living room neat and – my hair waved! Well we waited and waited and no one came. Half an hour after I’d asked them to come I called up one of the party and she, on consulting her engagement pad, said they had been asked for the following Friday! – as had all the others.
I never lived through such an evening. Angry Irish faces in the kitchen, great selfcontrol and some slight reserve and lack of conversation on the part of Edward as we seated ourselves at the extended dining room table, with flowers and many candles between us. A great deal of food, and abortive attempts at conversation from me – and no one in sight. The flowers fortunately hid Ed; a row of empty plates between us. Polly came down and thought we looked like poor rich people. I really think I shall have to fire all the maids after this and start afresh.
. . . Love to you both.
P.S. I’ve still given up smoking!
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Nowadays, whatever other faults the son of rich parents may tend to develop, he is at least forced by the opinion of all his associates of his own age to bear himself well in manly exercises and to develop his body—and therefore, to a certain extent, his character—in the rough sports which call for pluck, endurance, and physical address.
Teddy Roosevelt came to St. Paul’s School in June of 1906 to dedicate the Spanish American War Memorial. (Teddy had also visited SPS back in 1875, when he had retrieved his younger brother Elliot who couldn’t complete his first term due to nervous “hysteria”.) The war memorial, a bronze statue by Bela Pratt (a student of Saint Gaudens) shows a young soldier “at ease but tense, committed but with an air of youthful insouciance,” gazing off past the black waters sluicing off of Library Pond. The boys and masters and alumni of the school assembled on the terrace before the Sheldon Library that day and remembered “the noble and unselfish ardor aroused by our nation’s interference in the cause of Cuba.”
A large posse of Eastern blue bloods had enlisted in T.R.’s Rough Rider regiment, at a time when “the white man’s burden” was every young gentleman’s social obligation. Dudley Dean “perhaps the best quarterback who ever played on a Harvard 11,” Bob Wrenn “the champion tennis player of America,” Waller “the high jumper,” Craig Wadsworth “the steeplechase rider,” and Joe Stephens, “the crack polo player,” formed the core of the regimental leadership as it started the campaign towards Santiago.
Hamilton Fish (SPS 1890), the ex-captain of the Columbia crew, was in the thick of it along with five other “Paulies”. His Grandfather and namesake, the Secretary of State, (he preceded Wm. M. Evarts) had worked diligently to preserve peaceful relations with Spain, but young Ham found his destiny on the Caribbean island. Colonel Roosevelt was Ham’s close friend, and gave him a dog, “Don” which quickly became the regiment mascot. The evening before the Battle of Las Guasimas, Ham and Teddy sat together in their campground and, facing combat for the first time, talked heart to heart.
“I said, ‘Well, Fish, we have all got to die sometime, and after all, we cannot die in a better way,’ and he nodded and said, ‘That is just how I feel, Colonel, and it is one of the reasons that made me come.’”
Sergeant Hamilton Fish took a bullet to his heart the next morning; he was the first American soldier to die in the Spanish American War. (Don, his dog, went on to rush San Juan Hill, and after the war quietly retired to the Quaker town of Whittier, California, until a big touring car containing four persons rounded a corner at a high speed and the old dog, walking quietly along, could not get out of its way.)
When Teddy came to commemorate the war dead and personally express his admiration for the men who served with him in Cuba, my grandfather Edward Perkins was completing his first year as a master at Saint Paul’s School. Like his grandfather and great-grandfather before him, he had cast about for a vocation after leaving college, and like them he took up teaching school in New England.
He had been a boy at the school in the final years of the second Rector, Joseph Howland Coit. In 1905, the year Edward returned to teach, Dr. Henry Ferguson took over as interim Rector. St Paul’s was “a picked and purple school”; fashionable magazines of the day noted the “physical beauty, general alertness, and winsome charm of these finished little gentlemen.” Henry Vaughan had filled the pastoral landscape with the high gothic Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul, the heavy Georgian Lower School, and the massive “Tudorbethan” Upper School. The school was morphing from its early incarnation as an extension of the Coit family to a much larger and more complex educational institution. It was a time when students showed “a mixture of conformity and rebellion, conventionality with strong individualism.” Boys wore stiff collars and were expected to tip their hats to each master he passed, but beards and sideburns were grown and drinking and smoking were common throughout the school. Relations between boys and masters were often strained; boys were known to torment new masters, and prided themselves on being able to reduce the term of several new recruits to a single year.
When Edward returned to St. Paul’s in 1905 he became an instructor in Latin and Greek. For four years it was a pleasurable enough life, insulated from the many vagaries of young bachelorhood. Young masters lived on a meager salary, thread-bare aristocrats moving in upper class society without any real wherewithal to support such a lifestyle, bonding with each other and their young charges and their students’ affluent parents.
“At St. Paul’s, we believe that Latin provides a medium, unsurpassed by any other subject, for developing those qualities so necessary for scholastic success in school and college. From the first the student may be taught the importance of care and accuracy, of facing and analyzing a problem, of memorizing and learning the essential facts. A boy may learn how disastrous it is to put things off. On the other hand, he will find how inevitably and surely a well-prepared lesson brings its satisfaction. For the first time he faces a problem that taxes all his mind.”
Hobey Baker, John “Gil” Winant, and Charlie Scribner were all third formers that year at SPS, and Edward did his best to share his enthusiasm and affection for the classics with them. Caesar’s Gallic Wars, Virgil’s Aeneid, the Iliad and the Odyssey presented the young master and his charges with intellectual challenges, aesthetic enjoyment, and moral instruction.
Hobey Baker, particularly handsome, “slim and defiant”, with a blond shock of hair, was making his mark in the classroom as an industrious, though not brilliant student. He was absolutely dazzling, however, on the gridiron and on the “black ice” of the Lower School Pond. Hockey was taking hold in Millville; the ice froze quickly on the shallow ponds and the thermometer sank below zero early in the winter in the Merrimack Valley. Hobey viscerally loved sport for sport’s sake; no-one could play with or against Hobey without being influenced by his contagious charisma and spirit of fair play. In his sixth form year, the St. Paul's team defeated Princeton, the Tigers' only loss that year. He was never penalized for foul play, and he went out of his way to congratulate his opponents at the close of every contest. He would become to Scott Fitzgerald “an ideal worthy of everything in my enthusiastic admiration, yet consummated and expressed in a human being who stood within ten feet of me.”
Gil Winant was a poor student at St. Paul's, but he discovered his gift as a natural leader who could inspire and persuade others with the force of his personality. Gilt was sober, serious, quiet, unassuming, idealistic and passionate about the causes of social justice. He cared little for the practicalities of money; he was indifferent to food, often forgetting to eat. He loved St. Paul's because it was a thoroughly impractical school, whose only function was to prepare students to enter Princeton or Harvard or Yale. It concentrated on learning in an ideal way, without any concerns for training its young charges for a career. This suited Winant fine. He was, above all, an impractical idealist. And St. Paul's was the only place and time in his life in which Winant was ever fully happy.
Charlie Scribner was gentle and reserved, with a bit of an Edwardian stammer; he was quite artistic, like his Flagg uncles, and had a good sense of humor. He loved horses, and with his neatly parted flaxen hair, cut a dashing figure riding the hunts of New Jersey. He did not personally have a great literary bent, but his family’s publishing house in New York had just published The Golden Bowl by Henry James, Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, Barrie’s Peter Pan, and the first twenty-three volumes of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, and it was obvious he would someday go on to join the family firm.
At Anniversary, 1909, Woodrow Wilson, President of Princeton University was the principal speaker. “The tall, ascetic figure, the deeply chiselled and beautifully modeled features, the brow of the scholar, the eyes that flashed as he drove home his points” held his audience in thrall. “I am sorry for the lad who is going to inherit money; the object of college is to make young gentlemen as unlike their fathers as possible.” Wilson warned that both St. Paul’s and Princeton were doomed to disappear unless they reformed and adapted themselves to the needs of modern life. By promoting social exclusivity, they were failing to train leaders, and today’s college men would find themselves capable of playing little useful role on graduation.
Gil Winant, Hobey Baker, and Charlie Scribner all went on to Princeton.
After four years at the school, Edward decided to move on as well. “The life and work there I enjoyed and it was with a great deal of regret that I finally made up my mind that if I remained in it permanently I would certainly find myself in middle life dissatisfied in having irretrievably renounced the interests and rewards of an active career in more expansive surroundings. But recognizing that such was the fact I entered the law school of Columbia University in the autumn of 1909.”
His younger brother Max was a cub reporter at the New York Times, Learned Hand had just been appointed Federal Judge, Harlan Fiske Stone was the new Dean of the Law School, the Columbia Law Review was nearing its second decade; New York would become his home.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Young Edward went back to Harvard; he was just starting his sophomore year in 1902. The world was changing rapidly – Not only had Father and Grandfather Evarts and Uncle Charley Beaman and Great Uncle Ned just died, Queen Victoria had died in January of 1901 after almost 64 years on the throne, and President McKinley had been shot to death in September 1901 after four and a half years in office.
Boston was growing by leaps and bounds after filling in the Back Bay and all the way out to Kenmore Square and the Fens by 1900. The Tremont Street Subway was opened in 1897, and streetcars were reaching across the Charles and out into the suburbs. Automobiles, which were beginning to be produced on production lines, were starting to take the place of the horse and carriage.
While Henry James was still writing novels about Americans on tour in Europe, books about life as it was really lived in America, like Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and Stephen Crane’s Maggie: a Girl of the Streets were being read by college students.
Teddy Roosevelt was President. Everything was getting big! The new Harvard Stadium designed by McKim Mead and White seated over 40,000 football fans. After an alarming series of deaths and serious concussion injuries, there was talk of dropping the game, but President Charles Eliot declared “effeminacy and luxury are even worse evils than brutality” and President Roosevelt preached from his bully pulpit “Hit the line hard: Don’t foul and don’t shirk, but hit the line hard”. The topic for the big Harvard-Yale debate in 1905 was controversial, “Resolved that the intercollegiate football in America is a detriment rather than a benefit”, but there was little doubt about it, Big Time Football had arrived.
Education was becoming open to all; MIT and Harvard were considering merging into an even larger university. In 1900, Julia Harrington Duff, an Irish American Woman, was elected to the Boston School Committee; at Harvard, there were more students from Boston Latin, a public school, than from Groton or St. Paul’s.
Frank Roosevelt, the fop from Groton whose cousin had fallen into the Presidency after the shooting in Buffalo, was living in Westmorly, the most ornate, with diamond-leaded windows and oak wainscoting, of the private "Gold Coast" residence halls on Bow Street. Roger Baldwin, who would serve a year in jail avoiding service in the Great War and found the ACLU, was exploring the bounds of Harvard's tradition of tolerance and liberty of opinions in his own way: "I am for socialism, disarmament, and, ultimately, for abolishing the state itself... I seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class, and the sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal." Lothrop Stoddard was developing his argument that the absorption of the "white" race by "colored" races would result in the destruction of Western civilization (Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby reads a book titled The Rise of the Colored Empires by "this man Goddard" and throughout Gatsby Tom confusedly and pathetically espouses Goddard's racial theories.)
An effort was made by the best men in the class, including Capt. Hurley and Ray Oveson of the football team, to draw seniors of class of 1905 from the big private dormitories to the “Yard” for their final year, so that senior class would occupy the yard en masse. It was hoped that the change would make Harvard more democratic and foster class spirit and college loyalty. Those who did not fall in line stood a good chance of being ostracized.
Edward was not particularly athletic, and while he was invited to join the Signet, a literary club, his junior year, he didn’t have the means or the inclination to join the Porcellian or the Fly Club. While he had been to St. Paul’s, and Perkins Hall had recently been constructed, he came a generation too late to be able to claim ostentatious wealth as his birthright. He thought he would probably go on to study law like his father and Grandfather Evarts, so he studied the classics, Latin and Greek, and literature.
Max joined him at Harvard in 1903 after things settled down at home. While Edward would keep Boswell’s Life of Johnson by his table the rest of his life, Max kept re-reading War and Peace. While Edward held to a classical course of studies, Max studied literature with Copey Copeland, joined the Stylus Club, got arrested for being drunk and disorderly after the Yale game, and in December became the first member of his class to be placed on probation. Van Wyck Brooks, who like Max, aspired to be a writer, came to Harvard as well, and shared a straw yellow house on Winthrop Street with Max, while his brother Ames, who would become a lawyer like Edward, write one slim volume of verse, and eventually walk in front of a locomotive, went off to Princeton. Max, who knew the swell crowd from SPS, made sure to introduce Van Wyck to all the right people, and helped get him into the Stylus and Signet "absolutely the nicest thing in college to belong to" and the final Fox Club. ("Foxhall Edwards" would be the editor in Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again).
"Walter Pater is in every college bookshelf. DeQuincey may be on the bottom shelf...Every college-man of culture is a life-member with Mr. Elbert Hubbard . . . we see the rooms of these intellectual devotees and patrons of the arts plastered with Mona Lisas and Vierges au Rochers . . .We are sure to find certain wall-schemes with a single Rembrandt and a couple of aesthetic candles (going, if possible, all day)." The cults of John Donne and Dante met at the home of Charles Eliot Norton, C.C Perkins old friend, but Melville, Thoreau, Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman had no place at that time in the Harvard canon.
The Perkins boys, without the resources to take off on frequent holidays, visited their uncles’ families on weekends; their mother’s brother Prescott Evarts was the Rector of Christ Church in Cambridge, and their dad’s brother Charles Bruen Perkins, the architect, was living at Oakwood on Jamaica Pond, next door to their Cleveland cousins living at Nutwood (the city had taken the big Pine Bank house to be part of Olmstead’s Emerald Necklace park). When Uncle Prescott learned that Max had been invited to join the Fox Club but couldn't afford it, he wrote a check to cover the expenses. When they went to Newport in the summer, their Grandma Perkins gave Edward Longfellow's invitation to Uncle Ned to join the Saturday Club, and gave Max letters from Browning, Lowell, and Motley to hang on the Fox Club walls.
554 men received their Harvard College degrees in 1905. An additional 253 more men would be listed as “Special Students and Affiliated Members.” Edward Newton Perkins, having failed to complete all his physical education requirements, would fall into the latter category.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
In his “hyperaesthetic youth”, Van Wyck Brooks was mortified to have been born in the dully named town of Plainfield, New Jersey. As he grew older however, he was greatly relieved to find out that Tolstoy’s place Yasnaya Polyana, where he wrote War and Peace, meant the same thing in Russian, and he eventually discovered that Plainfield in the 1880’s, had more mystery, intrigue, and personality than most simple unadorned American towns. By the time the new train station was built in 1885, Plainfield was growing into one of the affluent suburbs made possible by the railroad link to New York. With its relatively pure air, the local paper touted Plainfield as the “Colorado of the East” and a haven for sufferers of respiratory illnesses, even though it boasted no exalted Rocky Mountains. The “Town of a Hundred Millionaires” filled up with capitalists and robber barons, as well as some literary folk such as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian, Julia Ward Howe’s daughter Florence, and Bret Harte’s abandoned wife and daughter. Edward and Betty Perkins moved out from Manhattan to Plainfield after the first three boys, Ned, Max, and Carley, were born. They bought a nice comfortable house on Central Avenue, and Edward, who never wore an overcoat, bought the first high wheel bicycle in town and rode it to the train station each morning to commute to his law practice at Gray & Davenport in the city. Three more children followed, Molly (1890) and Fanny (1892), and finally Louis (1896), and Edward and Betty quickly became close friends with other young parents in town, including Rowland and Fanny Cox and Charles and Sallie Brooks. The Perkins threw themselves into their new community. They were active in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and helped found the “Shakespeare Club of Plainfield” where they read Shakespeare aloud with their neighbors (the first reading selection came from King Lear). They made sure not to miss a week, because the club had the habit of electing as president a member who was absent from the meeting. Betty and Sallie Brooks and Fanny Cox joined The Monday Afternoon Club which provided a literary outlet for women (Betty explicated Matthew Arnold's Dramatic Poetry, while Sallie addressed the club on Roman, Byzantine, Arabian, Turkish, and Moorish Ornament). Edward, whose father had been on the School Board in Boston, ran for School Trustee as a Democrat, and on Sunday nights at home, he read aloud to his children from Ivanhoe, The Rose and the Ring, and the Three Musketeers. “I have watched my own career since 1885 with friendly interest, but I hardly think a particular account of it is anxiously desired by my friends and classmates, though I hope many of them will be glad to know that I have been fairly prosperous and successful." When Mr. Gray was appointed to the Court of Appeals, the firm became Davenport, Smith & Perkins, then Smith & Perkins, and then Perkins & Jackson. Edward worked hard, and his practice was successful. One of his important cases was Goetze vs. United States in which it was decided by the Supreme Court that Puerto Rico ceased, after the treaty with Spain, to be a "foreign country" within the meaning of the tariff laws. His personal style reflected his New England training and ancestry and made him a valuable member of the grievance committee of the New York Bar Association. They often travelled into Manhattan to visit Betty’s parents and their city friends. Society in New York had moved uptown and the slums had moved in around the old downtown neighborhood, but the Evarts still lived in the old house at 231 2nd Avenue. Plainfield society came into the city when Uncle Charles Bruen Perkins finally, in 1896, got married to Elizabeth Ward, a tall and sweet looking brunette. Monsignor Doane conducted the ceremony, and the New York Times took note: "a fashionable wedding in an old-fashioned New York house early in September is so decidedly a novelty". Grandfather Evarts, the Senator, was getting old and blind. In 1889 he had sailed to Europe on “La Champagne” with his son Allen and his daughter Mary to consult the best oculists in Europe. By the mid nineties, he began to find it hard to travel. The grandchildren, however, were full of life. Ned and Max Perkins made life-long friends with Ames and Van Wyck Brooks. Ned and Max were sent off to St. Paul’s when they turned thirteen. Ned entered the School in 1896, where he was an Isthmian who played on the second eleven, an assistant editor of the Horae Scholasticae Magazine and a member of the Concordian Literary Society, the Missionary Society, and the Library Association. Max, who shared his literary inclinations, followed him in 1898 and became quarterback and captain of the third Isthmian Football Team. Grandfather Evarts became increasinngly housebound in New York. Joseph Choate came to call just before embarking for England where he had been appointed Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Evarts congratulated him and prophesied a brilliant diplomatic career, but then shook his head and said, "When I think what a care I am to my people, lying so helpless here, and that I can do nothing any more to repay their kindness, or to help in the world, I feel like the boy who wrote home from school to his mother a letter of twenty pages, and then added: 'P.S. Mother, please excuse my longevity.' " The former Senator and Secretary of State, who had moved the unanimous nomination of Lincoln, defended Johnson against impeachment, and secured Hayes disputed election, turned eighty-three on February 6th, 1901. Two weeks later, he was stricken with pneumonia. On the last day of February, he died. In the summer the family travelled to Grandmother Perkins house in Newport, Bruen Villa, a virtual museum of old paintings and objets d’art which C. C. Perkins had collected in Florence. She gave Ned and Betty a superb Michelangelo sketch for the Last Supper which they hung in the Plainfield house, (although some later challenged its provenance), and recalled stories of the old days in Italy, banditti in wild passes of the mountains and travelers robbed on the road in the middle of the night – musical soirees in Rome – the Marble Faun – “Harry” and “Willie” James and the family of Charles Eliot Norton. Great Grandmother Bruen rocked in her chair and remembered for the boys the time, when she was just a child, she saw George Washington ride on his white horse in front of New York’s City Hall. She lived to the age of 99, and died in 1892, while Grandmother Frances Davenport Bruen Perkins herself lived on in the Bruen Villa for fifty years until 1909. Every summer the family took the White Mountain Express to Windsor. Senator Evarts left the Skinner house in Windsor, as well as some property across the river in Cornish, to Betty. Fifty years later Van Wyck Brooks vividly remembered visiting with his best friend Max, and recalled "the little girls in pigtails, white dimity and sashes, playing croquet on the lawn in the golden afternoon". The children ran free - swam in Runnemede Pond, canoed on the Connecticut River, climbed Mt. Ascutney, ran through the woods in Paradise with their Evarts cousins, and caught turtles at Ohl’s Pond. You could catch turtles there from the bank, for they would poke their heads up through the weeds and you would grab just behind their head and get the turtle. One day we were doing this. Uncle Edward was looking sharply for a head. He saw one and grabbed, - and brought out a long slimey snake! You know a snake’s head is almost exactly like a turtles. Ned went on to Harvard in 1901. In October of his sophomore year, troubling news came from home. Father had developed a bad cold, and then a fever, and then pneumonia. On All Hallow’s Eve a telegram arrived; Ned rushed back from Harvard and Max was hurried back from St. Paul’s. Ned was 19, Max 17, Carlie 16, Molly 12, Fanny 10, and Louis 6, and at the age of 45, on October 30th 1902, Father was dead.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Then General Sherman, in a very deep voice, took command: “You boys come right out now or I’ll get some of my big guns and blow you out!”
The quickly terrified boys scampered out from under the table and nervously shook hands with the tall thin man with the white pin-feathery beard who marched through Georgia, and said “War is Hell!”
The summer of 1891 the Perkins family spent most of August in Windsor as usual. By then William M. Evarts had bought up five houses in a row on Main Street just north of the center of town, with open country, and a lake, and Paradise behind them. Evarts had given Betty one of the houses, and in this extended compound the Evarts cousins gathered en masse each summer.
Benjamin Harrison was President and he travelled through Vermont that August, stopping at Bennington on Battle Day, August 19th, to dedicate the new Bennington Monument, and then travelling on through Saratoga Springs, Castleton, Fairhaven, Middlebury, Burlington, St. Albans and St. Johnsbury, before arriving in Windsor on August 27th.
Senator Evarts and Charlie Beaman, along with the town dignitaries, met the President at the depot and escorted him to Runnemede Lodge for luncheon.
It is pleasant to be here today at the home of my esteemed friend and your fellow-townsman, the Hon. William M. Evarts. [Applause] I am glad that he has introduced into Vermont model farming [Laughter and applause], and has shown you what the income of a large city law practice can do in the fertilization of a farm. [Laughter and applause] He has assured me to-day that his farm yields a net income. I accept the statement of my host with absolute faith—and yet Mr. Evart's reputation as a bookkeeper is not the best in the world. [Laughter and applause] It is pleasant to see him and to be for a while in his genial presence, and to have this journey illuminated by a visit to his home. I hope he may dwell long with you in peace and honor, as he will always dwell in the honor and esteem of our whole people. [Applause]
Edward and Max lived in the world of boys and were not much interested in seeing the President, but when they went up to their grandfather’s house and saw the long lines of carriages drive in, with many stately men in black frock coats and silk hats, they realized something was going on. Billy Evarts, who was then about three and whose father was a clergyman said, “It looks like a funeral.”
Edward and Max were soon at the tables where the caterer’s men were working, and making the most of the opportunity. But eventually Aunt Mary, who had a different idea of their opportunities, and wanted to make the most of them, ran them down and herded them through a forest of legs and skirts, for a long distance, until the boys came into a little clearing where the President stood. He was a short man with a remarkably round chest, like a barrel, and a white beard, which rested upon it. He was surrounded by all sorts of great Republicans.
Aunt Mary said, “Mr. President, may I present my sister Betty’s children?” And the President laughed and shook their hands, and said in a remarkably deep, booming voice, “Well, I suppose you boys are good Republicans too.” There was silence all around the President, of course, when he was speaking, and there the boys stood. There was a long silence.
Their father was one of the original mugwumps who had jumped ship from the Republicans and supported Democrat Grover Cleveland in 1884 rather than James G. Blaine (The Continental Liar From the State of Maine). Benjamin Harrison, a Republican, had ousted Cleveland from the presidency in 1888.
Then Edward spoke up loudly and defiantly: “No, we are not. We are Democrats!” There was a great burst of laughter, to which the President himself contributed.
Years later, Max thought it was a truly brave "magnificent thing" his brother had done and suggested as much to his mother. "Yes", she replied, "but it would have been different if you had been the one to do it. Edward always did like to stir up the animals."
Friday, February 11, 2011
As secretary, Evarts took along another bright young man, his daughter Elizabeth’s fiancé, Edward C. Perkins. Although young Ned came from an old Boston family and had graduated from the Harvard Law School, he had been born and raised in a villa in Florence and was just as much at ease in Europe with the diplomats of Germany, France, England, Italy and Spain as he was in Cambridge or New York.
While in Paris, Evarts and his young protégé must have met with Edouard de Laboulaye and Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and examined Bartholdi’s massive sculpture “The Goddess of Liberty” which was being constructed at the workshop of Gaget, Gauthier & Company. Evarts was leading the American arm of the Franco-American Union which was sponsoring the proposed French gift to the United States, and chaired the committee which was raising American funds for the statue’s pedestal and eventual erection on Bedloe’s Island.
When they returned from Europe young Perkins summered as usual at his Grandmother Bruen’s villa in Newport, and then clerked in the fall in a law office at Newport and over the winter at the office of Gray and Davenport in Manhattan. That spring he was admitted to the New York bar. He was a very personable young man; despite his dapper looks and continental upbringing he carried into his relations with his clients and brother lawyers a certain element which they considered “New England”. Evarts found him most charming and welcomed him warmly into his home in New York and Vermont.
Elizabeth Hoar Evarts married Edward Clifford Perkins in Windsor on August 2nd, 1882. They were both twenty-four years old. Betty was dignified and gracious and brought common sense to the marriage to compliment her groom’s aesthetic flair. She was said to always walk at the same pace, not so slowly as to seem to have no purpose, but not so fast as to be unladylike. The young couple however, made no delays in enjoying their marriage. My Grandfather, Edward Newton Perkins, was born nine months and two days after the wedding, on May 4th, 1883 in New York City. Max was born fifteen months later.
In New York the Franco-American Committee sold statuettes, photographs and pamphlets, and held benefit theatrical events, art exhibitions, auctions and prize fights to raise funds for the Liberty statue, but the New York Board of Education refused to allow school children to perform concerts in support, an appropriation in Congress failed and Grover Cleveland, then Governor of New York, vetoed a bill by the New York legislature to contribute $50,000.
The idea of building a colossal statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World” in New York Harbor seemed a harebrained scheme. There was an avalanche of criticism – architects declared the statue would blow over in the first storm. Some rich patrons were slow to accept the artistic merits of the statue, the New York public was apathetic and raising money outside of New York City was difficult. Eventually, Evarts enlisted Joseph Pulitzer of the World who successfully recruited school children to raise pennies for the project, and financing for the pedestal was completed by the summer of 1885.
Evarts thought that there were already too many laws on the books and regarded the Congress more as a debating society than a law-making body. He was the thinnest man in the Senate, weighing only a hundred and twenty-five pounds. His trousers were baggy at the knees, his coat hung loose, and his top hat seemed always crammed down to his ears. A Vermonter, seeing him for the first time declared “why he looks as though he boarded.” He may well have considered it - the Senatorship was a costly luxury – The five thousand dollar salary didn’t even cover the rent on his house and stable.
Evarts didn’t think much of Grover Cleveland and rarely visited the White House, but he was a frequent guest at the Little White House on Lafayette Square. Evarts loved Clover Adams’s keen intellect and her feminine scorn for the commonplace. He knew that she was distraught over the recent death of her father, and he was glad to oblige when she asked him to sit for her camera. Evarts’s eyes appear a bit rheumy in the starkly monochrome print, but he holds a steady piercing gaze, and stares out past the present day.
On December 6, 1885, Henry Adams found Clover lying on the rug before her bedroom fire. The room smelled of bitter almonds, an odor he recognized as the potassium cyanide Clover used in the darkroom, fixing the images she took from life. The newspaper the next evening reported that she had suddenly dropped dead from paralysis of the heart. Henry could rarely bring himself to write or speak of Clover again; the Five of Hearts would be no more.
~William M. Evarts’s twelve children were mostly gone from the nest, starting their own families and careers. He was starting to have problems with his eyes, and was terribly concerned about his son Charlie, the farm manager, who had just suffered a paralyzing stroke. Even so, summer in Windsor provided a welcome respite from Washington and New York; by August the corn was shoulder high and the hay was being cut for the second time.
The young Perkins family came to spend a few weeks’ vacation. Edward, the older boy was four, and Max was about to turn three; Betty was seven months pregnant and her husband attentive to her needs as the grandsons toddled about by the pond. William M. and Helen Evarts were doting grandparents, and spent a few serene and happy days with the growing young family. They had plenty of room and invited their son-in law’s family to come visit. Charles and Fanny Perkins, the noted art critic and his wife, took the train up from Newport for a visit. They shared news of their families – the Perkins’s younger son Charlie had studied architecture with H.H. Richardson for a year and was now in Paris at The Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and beautiful Eleanor was being courted by a British naval officer. The Evarts’s sons Allen and Sherman were starting to practice law in New York, their daughter Hettie and her husband Charlie Beaman had bought the old “Blow-Me-Down” farm across the river in Cornish and were renting the old stage-coach inn “Blow-Me-Up” to the young sculptor Gus Saint-Gaudens.
On the afternoon of August 25 Wm. M. Evarts suggested that C.C. Perkins might accompany him on a carriage drive, along with an attractive young neighbor Jeannie Matthews. Charles was delighted at the opportunity and they set out to tour the valley; Perkins was full of enthusiasm at the beauty of the country, and looked forward to sketching the views of the river and Mt. Ascutney.
Suddenly when they were crossing a dyke-embankment the coachman reined in the horses, one of the bits broke, a bridle came off, and the horses ran out of control. The last thing Miss Matthews remembered was the smile Perkins gave her, as if to save her from alarm. Then the crash came; they were all thrown from the carriage - Miss Matthews was badly bruised, Evarts suffered a sprained ankle and a severe laceration on the scalp, and Charles Callahan Perkins was instantly killed.
On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was set to be unveiled. Senator Evarts made an moving keynote speech, and at the end of a particularly eloquent passage he paused for effect and received a hearty round of applause. Bartholdi had gone up into the statue and held the rope with which he was to pull away the rain-darkened French flag which enshrouded Liberty's head, and unveil his masterpiece. A young boy gave him the "high sign"; the applause, he thought, marked the end of Evarts' oration; he pulled the rope.
The hundreds of steam craft in the harbour, discovering the giant face of Liberty, unanimously saluted her with their horns and whistles. The Senator was about to continue when the U.S.S. Tennessee, flagship of the squadron, fired a broadside. The band struck up "My Country, 'tis of Thee."
Senator Evarts went on to inaudibly finish his address in the din of the crowd, and President Cleveland - who possessed a keen sense of humor – appeared to give the speech which no one could hear his most grave and concentrated attention.
Monday, February 7, 2011
In August of 1877 President Hayes toured Vermont and New Hampshire hoping to draw public interest away from economic collapse and the great railroad strike that had pitted militia against workers in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Chicago. Twelve years after the end of the Civil War, the country was divided both economically and by the politics of Reconstruction; Hayes hoped the tour to mark the centennial of the events of the Revolution would also help salvage America’s fragile sense of unity. A large crowd greeted the President and his Secretary of State when they arrived in Bennington to celebrate the centennial of the Battle of Bennington. Hayes was brief in his remarks: 100 years ago it was meritorious to be a minute-man, to fight in the cause of independence. Is there not some merit in my becoming a minute-man? When Wm. M Evarts took the podium, he followed the president’s lead: I should warn you that although I am very slow to begin a speech, I am much slower to end it, and I know your only safety is in my retiring before I commence. Evarts did, however, speak at length at dinner, recalling that he was only a few miles from Sunderland, birthplace of his father. The Presidential party spent the night at the Walloomsac Inn and the next day travelled on to Windsor to commemorate the founding of the Republic of Vermont. Arriving in Windsor, the president introduced his Secretary of State, “the gentleman who conducts the correspondence with foreign governments, and who writes the high sounding words in the documents to which I have to put my signature. If you ever see my name under such documents you must bear in mind that they were written by your neighbor.” The President and his party spent the weekend as Evarts’s guests at Runnemede. Saturday was a grand day - speeches were made from the piazza, the band played, three cheers were given, and thousands came to shake hands with the President. On Sunday Evarts and Hayes attended church and then toured the abundant countryside, admiring the views of the Connecticut Valley and Mt. Ascutney from the family barouche.
Henry and Clover Adams rented a large house on Lafayette Square. The Adams rode through Rock Creek Park in the morning, breakfasted at noon, Henry wrote in the afternoon, and then they poured tea at five. Childless, they fawned over their Skye terriers Boojum and Pollywog. The house was stuffed full of potted palms and Japanese vases, drawings by Rembrandt and Michelangelo, Kashmir carpets and oils by Turner and Constable. Their home soon became known as the “Little White House” and drew more admirers than the larger (and much dryer) White House across the square. Henry, the grandson and great-grandson of Presidents, seemed to have no political ambitions of his own, but was relentlessly drawn to the Capitol for the human capital it provided. He had considerable wealth, excellent taste, and a discriminating mind. Above all else he valued his friends, and he found his old mentor Evarts “very cordial and civil, and the State Department magnificently hospitable”. At a time when women could watch but not participate in politics, Clover became an accomplished voyeur. She and Henry learned the new art of photography on their honeymoon trip up the Nile, and Clover became a very accomplished photographer – her portraits of Oliver Wendell Holmes, George Bancroft and John Hay and the Adams family and the Adams dogs (Possum, Marquis, and Boojum at tea in the garden) capture a world of parlors, picnics and teas, afternoons playing banjo on the porch, and catboat sails in the bay, and great men considering their legacies to the world. The State Department became even more hospitable in the fall of 1879, when Evarts called John Hay back from Cleveland to become his Assistant Secretary of State. Hay resisted the call at first, but agreed to serve when he learned that Henry Adams was in town. Hay had been a young assistant to Lincoln during the war, had edited the New York Tribune, written some best-selling doggerel (Jim Bludso of the Prairie Belle), and married very, very well to Clara Stone, the daughter of a railroad baron. The youngest of the Hearts, Clara was at the same time their mother figure. She was a pious and robust young woman, with deep brown eyes and thick dark hair. She loved reading books aloud to her husband and her four children, and glared at Mark Twain when he came to call on the Sabbath. She was the quiet foil to the wits of the other four hearts, pouring tea and being amused by their brilliance. Clarence King was campaigning for the creation of the U.S. Geological Survey. King had been a fixture at dinners at the Union League and Century Clubs in New York, and had made a name for himself by exploring the west along the fortieth parallel with his friend James Gardiner (son-in-law of Bishop Doane). Unlike Hay and Adams, who both inherited and married well, King needed to get rich and he needed female companionship. He was, according to Hay “the best and brightest man of his generation, with talents immeasurably beyond any of his contemporaries . . . with everything in his favor but blind luck".
"Hang it," said Bonnycastle, "Let us be vulgar and have some fun - let us invite the President" -Henry James, Pandora
Evarts’s protégés were bound together by their common arrival at the seat of power at the apex of their lives. They played their private games – amusing themselves with Five of Hearts tea sets and stationery, snubbing the President, and continuously accusing each other of authoring Democracy, the roman-a-clef about a New York socialite who "for reasons that many people thought ridiculous . . . decided to pass the winter in Washington."
"What she wished to see," the anonymous author wrote, "was the clash of interests, the interests of 40 millions of people and a whole continent, centering at Washington; guided, restrained, controlled, or unrestrained and uncontrollable, by men of ordinary mould; the tremendous forces of government and the machinery of society at work. What she wanted, was POWER."