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“The author, who is doubtless in Heaven, will, I trust, pardon all mistakes. Your friend,
EDWIN FORREST. “Colonel John W. FORNEY.
"They came and went and came again,
Till night at last came on;
Till every one had gone.
He swift removed the clay;
And bore it swift away.
And laid it on the floor,
He barred the cottage door.
And placed it in a chair ;
And made the kindling fire with care.
And in its wonted place,
Reflected in her face.
And then her face behold:
And why are you so cold ?”
His only friend to call;
In death restored him all.'”
The picture of the Idiot Boy and his widowed mother, the broken voice and sobs of the son when the poor woman died and was followed to the grave by her witless child—if this grand picture could have been presented from the stage, it would have been even greater than his Lear or his Richelieu. I had Jefferson more than once as a visitor, and Davenport, and generous, true-hearted Murdoch.
But long before I was a tenant in the old Mills House it had a peculiar story of its own. It is one of the institutions of Washington. Occupied during the last hundred years by men of all shades of politics, there is hardly a room in it that has not a legend by which to be remembered. George Washington, John Marshall, and their contemporaries, have met and counseled within its walls, and the political leaders of a later period have successively gathered there. When I bade farewell, nothing seemed more saddening to me than to feel that I had probably left the old house forever, and yet, whenever business calls me back to the National Capital, I return to these ancient rooms as a son goes back to home and fireside. But there are so many more reminiscences connected with these reunions that I shall venture some other allusions to them in a future number.
[May 7, 1871.]
RUFUS CHOATE, of Massachusetts, must have been, in most of his qualities, very like the lamented George W. Barton, of Pennsylvania. Quick and impetuous of speech, wholly original in manner, abounding in rich and gorgeous imagery, he was also a melancholy man, and his keen, quick intellect wore out and wore through a nervous organization. It will be remembered that his great heart was severely wounded when Daniel Webster was defeated by General Scott for the Whig nomination for President at the Baltimore Convention in 1852, which he attended as a delegate from Massachusetts, and that from that hour his allegiance to his favorite party began to weaken, until 1856, when he took ground in favor of James Buchanan in his celebrated speech at Worcester—the effect of which will be recalled by the unforgotten sentence in which he called
upon his friends to support the Democratic candidate, because he “carried the flag and kept step to the music of the Union." I heard a very pleasant incident, some evenings ago, related by a distinguished Senator in Congress from one of the Western States, who was himself the party immediately benefited. Anxious when quite young to complete the study of his profession, he visited Boston, and called upon Mr. Choate and offered himself as one of his students. Struck by the earnestness and frankness of the appeal, the great lawyer took him into his confidence, and soon realized that he could be made useful. At the end of two years, the student informed the preceptor that he intended to begin the practice of his profession in the flourishing State of Wisconsin. The answer of Mr. Choate was characteristic. He said: “I honor your determination, but I was selfish enough to hope that you might remain with me; yet, as you have resolved upon this step, you can always rely upon my friendship;" then asked if he had any money, to which the young man replied that he had no means to purchase his law library; whereupon "Mr. Choate said, “Go to Little & Brown (the old-established law publishers), select your books, and refer them to me as your security.” Elated by this renewed mark of his esteem, he laid in what he conceived to be a good assortment, and took the list back to the great man, who, glancing over it, said, “Your list is too small;" and, taking up the legal catalogue, he designated with his own hand a very much increased collection, amounting to some four or five thousand dollars, adding, "With these tools you can begin something like effective work." Our young practitioner started for the West, and opened his office, but, as bad luck would have it, was stricken down by one of the dangerous fevers of the country. Of course he could not pay the note when it fell due, but Mr. Choate kindly and carefully protected his credit. With unbroken spirit and restored health he began the practice of the law, and at the end of a comparatively short time earned enough money to liquidate his obligation; “but,” he said, “ as long as life lasts I shall never cease to cherish the name of Rufus Choate, and I would walk from here to Boston barefooted to serve any of his kith or kin."
Dwelling upon the devotion of Choate to Webster, and of Webster to Choate, our regret increases that these remarkable men had not, like John Quincy Adams, preserved a steady record of their busy and distinguished lives. How full of incident they must have been! They reveled in the enjoyment of literature and of all descriptions of learning. Wholly different in temperament, and yet alike in their eagerness to lead in great mental strifes, their written experience would have filled priceless volumes. Webster died in his seventieth year, and Choate in his sixty-first-the first in 1852, and the second in 1859, and the finest tribute ever paid to the Great Expounder was paid by his affectionate follower and friend at Dartmouth College, on July 27, 1853.
How faithfully the elder statesman has described the difference between the recollections of the mind and the memory of the heart will be realized in the following beautiful lines, not often published, which he contributed to a lady's album:
"If stores of dry and learned lore we gain,
Make slight impression and are soon effaced.
Nor lose their lustre till the heart stands still." [May 14, 1871.]