Writings by Susan Dickinson

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The same winter of '57 brought Emerson and Wendell Phillips as lecturers
to Amherst, and both were our royal guests - The latter I think on the whole
2 the most brilliant fireside talker I ever met, 1 as well as being the "N.E. ?". As I look back upon him
as he was then in full effloresence of life I involuntarily exclaim with
Curtis who pronounced his eulogy in Boston at his death "He was an
illuminated vase of odors". He fell into our household ways during his short
visit with us as if ours, were his home, showing everywhere the simplicity
of greatness, too preoccupied to feign. At supper he became so interested
in some exciting topic of the day, that he forgot to touch what was on his plate,
but at last partook in a most absent fashion, as if eating was quite out of
his realm. The lecture was his "Lost Arts" I sat and listened as children
to a fairy tale, and came home feeling that to be a dead Egyptian, was better
than a live Anglo Saxon. The old church was crowed [sic] with students who hung
upon his lips in complete fascination, a few taking notes, many watching
closely, thinking doubtless in crude apprehension of his power, that if they
stood quietly, like him as he did, upon the platform, gestured precisely as he did,
imitated his musical cadences, they should all in four years become just
like him. After the lecture he overflowed with fun and stories, telling us
in his magical fashion the story of the the Lyceum committee man out west, who sit-
ting behind him in the pulpit, in which they obliged him to stand, as he
lectured, grew restless under the even flow of his quiet oratory, tugged at
his coat tails now and then, crying in sotto voce "Roar, roar, roar louder!
telling Phillips at the end, he feared the people would feel cheated of their
money's worth if he did not make more noise. He was with us afterward on
several occasions, but the last was really very funny, in illustration of
his absent mindedness.

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Last updated on January 23, 2008

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