Even so late as less than half a century ago this region was still a most attractive little rus in urbe. The sunny gardens of the late Judge Charles Jackson and the late Mr. S.P. Gardner opened their flowers and ripened their fruits in the places now occupied by great warehouses and other massive edifices. The most aristocratic pears, the “Saint Michael,” the “Brown Bury,” found their natural homes in these sheltered enclosures. The fine old mansion of Judge William Prescott looked out upon these gardens. Some of us can well remember the window of his son’s, the historian’s, study, the light from which used every evening to glimmer through the leaves of the pear-trees while “The Conquest of Mexico” was achieving itself under difficulties hardly less formidable than those encountered by Cortes. It was a charmed region in which Emerson first drew his breath, and I am fortunate in having a communication from one who knew it and him longer than almost any other living person.
Mr. John Lowell Gardner, a college classmate and life-long friend of Mr. Emerson, has favored me with a letter which contains matters of interest concerning him never before given to the public. With his kind permission I have made some extracts and borrowed such facts as seemed especially worthy of note from his letter.
“I may be said to have known Emerson from the very beginning. A very low fence divided my father’s estate in Summer Street from the field in which I remember the old wooden parsonage to have existed,—but this field, when we were very young, was to be covered by Chauncy Place Church and by the brick houses on Summer Street. Where the family removed to I do not remember, but I always knew the boys, William, Ralph, and perhaps Edward, and I again associated with Ralph at the Latin School, where we were instructed by Master Gould from 1815 to 1817, entering College in the latter year.
“... I have no recollection of his relative rank as a scholar, but it was undoubtedly high, though not the highest. He never was idle or a lounger, nor did he ever engage in frivolous pursuits. I should say that his conduct was absolutely faultless. It was impossible that there should be any feeling about him but of regard and affection. He had then the same manner and courtly hesitation in addressing you that you have known in him since. Still, he was not prominent in the class, and, but for what all the world has since known of him, his would not have been a conspicuous figure to his classmates in recalling College days.
“The fact that we were almost the only Latin School fellows in the class, and the circumstance that he was slow during the Freshman year to form new acquaintances, brought us much together, and an intimacy arose which continued through our College life. We were in the habit of taking long strolls together, often stopping for repose at distant points, as at Mount Auburn,