not let me be misunderstood. It was no lack of graciousness
on Hovey's part, much less any shadow of affectation,
that made him silent. It was rather his great simplicity,
which made it impossible for him to be other than himself,
even for the first few minutes of a new acquaintanceship.
Some men are silent all the time; others are voluble
when you first meet them, and afterwards lapse into
their own selfish moods; still others are reserved at
first and grow communicative afterwards. I never could
see that time or place made any difference to Richard
Hovey in this respect. He was talkative or still, as
the case demanded, capable of hours of companionable
silence, and yet at need an able, interesting, luminous
were two traits chiefly that made his conversation a
pleasure; his great mental equipment and his fair spirit.
In talking with him one always felt (at least, I always
felt) the superior reach and breadth of his mind. He
impressed one as having thought seriously on any subject
that might come up, and, indeed, this was nearly always
the case. He has left no contemporary artist equally
well equipped in scholarly attainments. He had the student's
insatiable thirst for knowledge, the scholar's habit.
And yet with all his fulness of reading he wore his
knowledge lightly, and was the sworn enemy of the academic
and the commonplace. You could always depend on him
for an original point of view. Whatever subject might
arise the chances were he would be ready with some definite,
accurate, well-remembered knowledge about it, and would
at once give you some illuminating thought to bring
the mooted topic into the largest and truest relations.
He would roll a cigarette, walk up and down, and talk
in his wonderfully modulated voice, illustrating, convincing,
definite, sure. At times he seemed dogmatic, and you
might have guessed that he was wanting in plasticity;
but this was only in questions of scientific fact where
he was at home. For behind the monumental personality,
there was the most sensitive and unegotistic person.
I recall once his saying how utterly impossible and
absurd it was for any man to be confident of his own
thought in the face of the stupendous universe. He was
too wise to be egocentric for an instant, though his
brilliant, ponderable intelligence might make him seem
so to lesser bodies about him. What one of his friends
characterized as his "gentle grandeur," was
perhaps his most distinguishing characteristic.
was this gentle grandeur of character, coupled with
great sweetness of nature and great idealism of spirit,
that made him so indifferent to circumstance, so superior
to fortune. Few men have ever devoted themselves to
an aim more singly than he. He was well aware that poetry
is a sufficiently strenuous calling to enlist the whole
energy of any man, and to it he gave an almost undivided
life. And when common demands and necessities pressed
on him from this side and that, as such things will,
he took them as a matter of course; it never occurred
to him to make any compromise with Mammon. Reverses
or successes he bore with an equal mind, never unduly
elated and never dismayed.
his methods of work Richard Hovey was spasmodic, like
most artists. You would have called him extremely indolent
in habit: he had the deliberate temper of the student;
he may have hurried in his life, but I doubt it; he
disliked physical exertion, and this apparent aversion
was deceptive, for he certainly had not an idle mind;
in thought, I fancy, he was always busy. His work was
done in periods of immense pressure. If he were asked
to write an ode for his college fraternity, he would
come home to Washington a week before the poem had to
be delivered, shut himself in, and work almost continuously
until the task was finished. Only last summer he sailed
for London to read a new play to an English actress.
Only one act was completed when he left New York, but
the drama was finished when the steamer reached Liverpool.
a lecturer, Hovey's career was only beginning. For a
year and half he had been one of the lecturers at Barnard
College, giving two courses in Shakespeare and in nineteenth-century
English. But his success was very marked. He had the
utterly fearless originality of mind which characterizes
the artist, and which is so foreign to the average academic.
And yet he was free from wilfulness and vagary; all
his opinions rested on the substantial knowledge of
copious reading, great memory, and searching thought.
I had the pleasure of hearing him give a series of half
a dozen informal talks on Symbolism last winter in a
private house in New York. I have never heard literary
topics treated with such ease and mastery. For myself,
I must say that one sentence of Richard's would do more
to illumine a topic than a score of current magazine
wrote sparingly in prose, but he wrote from a full mind.
Among the things he will never finish was a monumental
work on English versification. One summer in camp in
Nova Scotia, he worked a deal on this subject, and we
talked of it together. Anyone who has looked into the
matter will know how utterly unscientific and false
most investigation in that line has been. Hovey's discoveries
and elucidations, could they have been recorded, would
have marked an epoch in poetical criticism.
in his own field of work only was he original: Richard
Hovey had thought on many subjects. The single-tax theory,
for instance, had no more firm adherent than he. And
while he had all the uncompromising logic of a reformer,
he had none of the bitterness of the zealot. He saw
there are tremendous wrongs to be set right; he saw
that it is our business to set our hand to the undertaking.
But he saw also how slow progress is, and how sweet
life is, and how good love is. I fancy that doubt of
the ultimate benignity of nature never entered Richard
Hovey's mind. Perhaps it was this that made him such
a fortress for his friends-this and his gentle quietude
all the work he has left to the world, he has left none
to his friends. The public has lost a brilliant man
of letters; but Richard Hovey's friends feel that he
was much more than any of his accomplished works, that
his was a personality that must have come to impress
itself upon the world; and they cannot help wishing
that their estimate and knowledge of him should somehow
is a idle wish. No one can represent an artist. Only
his own beautiful work can speak for him. And when he
leaves it unfinished, there is nothing more to say.