March 8, 2016

148 Charles Street

From "148 Charles Street," Willa Cather's recollection of Mrs. James Fields in Not Under Forty, recommended to me by Brain Pickings

When one was staying at that house the past lay in wait for one in all the corners; it exuded from the furniture, from the pictures, the rare editions, and the cabinets of manuscript—the beautiful, clear manuscripts of a typewriterless age, which even the printers had respected and kept clean.

Though the essay tells of almost meeting Henry James and is filled with memories of Dickens, Arnold, Thackeray—he visited the Fields house, left a sketch of himself, and framed it with a note of thanks—Emerson, and others, with remembrances of reading, with conversation, and with great regard for the past, there is also this forward-looking note—

She was not, as she once laughingly told me, "to escape anything, not even free verse or the Cubists!" She was not in the least dashed by either. Oh no, she said, the Cubists weren't any queerer than Manet and the Impressionists when they first came to Boston, and people used to run in for tea and ask whether she had ever heard of such a thing as "blue snow" or a man's black hat being purple in the sun!