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GEORGE F. HOAR.
BY EDWARD E. HALE.
THE PRESIDENT of the Society has asked me to prepare a paper for our records, on what I will call the literary life of Senator Hoar. By this the President and I both mean, some notice, however brief, of his literary and historical interests. Of these he never lost sight even in the darkest gloom of the great political questions of half a century. He says himself in a sentence which is pathetic, “Down to the time when I was admitted to the bar, and, indeed for a year later, my dream and highest ambition were to spend my life as what is called an office lawyer, making deeds, and giving advice in small transactions. I supposed I was absolutely without capacity for public speaking."
So little does a man know himself. So little does a young man forecast his own future. I can remember those days. And I know how sincere this statement of his is. He really thought that he could not speak extemporaneously, and yet I lived to hear him make some of the most quick retorts which were ever listened to in either house of Congress.
He says, “I expected never to be married; perhaps to earn twelve or fifteen hundred dollars a year, which would enable me to have a room of my own in some quiet house and to collect rare books which could be had without much cost.”
It was at that early period that I first knew him and from that early period till he died, I may say that we were near friends. I have a certain right, therefore, to speak of the underlying tastes and principles which asserted
themselves in the fifty-five years of life which followed on his entrance at the bar. I remember hearing someone laugh at the advice which he gives to young men who would prepare for public life. Some one had asked what was the best training for a public speaker, and quite unconsciously Mr. Hoar replied that if a young man wanted to be a public speaker he would do well to read the Greek orators in the original language. There is something a little droll in the thought of such advice as given to what the public calls a "rail splitter” or a “bobbin boy.” But he said it perfectly unconsciously. I suppose he was thinking of his own young life and he knew very well that what Mr. Adams calls the Greek fetish is a fetish very easily conciliated. I remember him the first winter he was in Worcester, as preferring to read Plato in the original to going into the pleasant evening society of the town, so that it was with some little difficulty that we youngsters made him take his part in social entertainments. Almost to the day of his death he maintained such early studies, which were, indeed, no longer studies.
By the kindness of Mr. Rockwood Hoar, I have here his unpublished translation of Thucydides. When of late years you called upon him of a sudden at his own home, you were as apt as not to find him standing at his desk and advancing that translation by a few lines, or revising it. Indeed, he reverenced the masters in whatever line of literature or life. You never met him but he surprised you by some apt quotation, perhaps from somebody you had never heard of, and it seems to me fair to say that the wide range of such reading is to be rememhered at once as cause and effect in that sunny cheerfulness, confidence, and courage which everyone has noted who has attempted to give any analysis or discussion of his character.
As I have spoken of the translation of Thucydides, I ought to say that I do not believe he had any thought of publishing it. He did not mean to throw discredit in any way upon the translations which existed. But rather, he meant, if I may use the phrase, to bind himself to the determination that he would once more read Thucydides and would read him carefully. I do not know, I wish someone would tell us, who first called Thucydides's history "the hand book of statesmen." Within intelligible limits, I think, perhaps, Mr. Hoar would have accepted that phrase. In making one more version into English of the great historian, however, he was working to please himself, without any care or thought as to whether his work was or was not a better literary work than Jowett's or Dale's, or any other translator's. I like to say this because there was not in him the least of that eagerness to have everything published which is one of the superficial absurdities of our time.
With such tastes and habits he was glad to accept the invitations which he received right and left to address the literary societies of the colleges. A collection of such addresses, many of them elaborate in their detail, would in itself make a very interesting volume of the history of the higher education. I have an address at Amherst on the "Place of the College Graduate in American Life," with the date of 1879. In an address before the Law Class of the Howard University he spoke on “The Opportunity of the Colored Leader.” At the anniversary of the Yale Law School he spoke on the “Function of the American Lawyer in the Founding of States."
His addresses at Plymouth on Forefather's Day, his Eulogy on Garfield, delivered in this city, his address on the Two Hundredth Anniversary of Worcester, his address at the dedication of the Public Library in Lincoln, Massachusetts, his address on Robert Burns, his address on Emer son, are to be spoken of as studies of permanent value When in 1888 the state of Ohio celebrated its own centen nial, Mr. Hoar was very properly requested by the authorities in Ohio to deliver the oration as representing the State
of Massachusetts, whose colony under Manasseh Cutler founded the City of Marietta. I had the pleasure of hearing that address. To this moment it is a great historical monument of a great occasion.
I have asked the Society to print as a matter of public convenience the titles of the 193 speeches and addresses which are contained in the sixteen volumes in his own library, a list which has been furnished us by the kindness of his son.
Of his papers read before this Society, the memory is fresh in the minds of all of us. He loved the Society and never forgot its work or its interests; and the broad national views which his life in Washington enabled him to take of the whole country gave him an opportunity to serve us in a thousand ways which were not open to other men.
Every such word of his in education or in history, is an original study and he is sure to go to the foundations. One of the representatives of Massachusetts in speaking of him before the House of Representatives cites the modest phrase of Mr. Webster, who says that the only genius he was aware of was a genius for hard work, and he applies that phrase to Mr. Hoar. It is a happy statement and it ought to be added that Mr. Hoar's literary work always seems to be spontaneous, or to be amusement or play. In general, the same remark would apply to it all which I have made of his Thucydides. In truth, he loved what we call study, and though no man was more social or welcomed à visitor more cordially, yet from one end of the year to another he would have been happy if he were alone with his books.
We remember here how often he gave dignity, and even solemnity, to our proceedings by his careful references to the work of the English divines. Our friend, Dr. Merriman, at our last meeting reminded us in the careful study which he made of Jeremy Taylor, of one of Mr. Hoar's suggestions. There is a very pathetic anecdote of a sacred
pilgrimage which he and Mrs. Hoar made to the parsonage of the poet Herbert. And if I have a right to say it, I will say, that no man among us had a more careful knowledge of the Puritan leaders in the seventeenth century, or of the really devout scholars in the Church of England in the next century. In the very last interview I had with him, he recalled some verses of Dr. Watts which are omitted in most of our hymn books. This might have happened with a superficial reader, but when with his own care he repeated the words, you could not but remember that from Milton to Montgomery he was familiar with all the sacred poets of English literature.
One instance out of a hundred will serve to illustrate the course of his life. In the year 1882, with his life in Washington full of the public duties of a hundred acquaintances which pressed upon a leading member of Congress, his attention was arrested by Mr. Dwight's report of Stevens's index on the Franklin Papers. I happen to speak of this detail because I was in Washington at the moment when that report was brought before the Library Committee. Mr. Hoar acquainted himself with every detail of the curious history of those papers and explained them before the joint Library Committee of which he was a member. He compelled the attention of leading members to the subject, he followed it from day to day, I might say, from hour to hour; and eventually secured the grant which was necessary for the purchase of the papers, which now make a possession so valuable to the Library of Congress. I have a thousand times had occasion to use those papers and I never do so without thinking of the man who could stop in what are called larger interests to see that such a detail was attended to.
No one visits the ancient University of William and Mary at Williamsburg without observing the reverence and affection with which the gentlemen there speak of his friendship to their college. In the Civil War the Peninsula of Vir