I have always had more cordiality towards strangers, homesick students at Dartmouth, and the audiences at my lectures, since learning a better habit. Frigidity and formality were driven away by the sunshine that brightened my stay at St. Louis.
I do not wish to intrude my private woes, but I returned from the West with a severe case of whooping-cough. I didn’t get it at St. Louis, but in the sleeping-car between that city and Chicago. I advise children to see to it that both parents get through with all the vastly unpleasant epidemics of childhood at an early age. It is one of the duties of children to parents.
Happy Days with Mrs. Botta—My Busy Life in New York—President Barnard of Columbia College—A Surprise from Bierstadt—Professor Doremus, a Universal Genius—Charles H. Webb, a truly funny “Funny Man”—Mrs. Esther Hermann, a Modest Giver.
I was obliged to give up my work at Packer Institute, when diphtheria attacked me, but a wonderful joy came to me after recovery.
Mrs. Vincenzo Botta invited me to her home in West Thirty-seventh Street for the winter and spring. Anne C. Lynch, many years before her marriage to Mr. Botta, had taught at the Packer Institute herself, and at that time had a few rooms on West Ninth Street. She told me she used to take a hurried breakfast standing by the kitchen table; then saying good-bye to the mother to whom she was devoted, walked from Ninth Street to the Brooklyn ferry, then up Joralemon Street, as she was required to be present at morning prayers. Her means were limited at that time and carfare would take too much. But it was then that she started and maintained her “Saturday Evenings,” which became so attractive and famous that N.P. Willis wrote of them that no one of any distinction thought a visit to New York complete without spending a Saturday evening with Miss Lynch. People went in such numbers that many were obliged to sit on the stairs, but all were happy. Her refreshments were of the simplest kind, lemonade and wafers or sandwiches. It has often been said that she established the only salon in this country, but why bring in that word so distinctively belonging to the French?
Miss Lynch was just “at home” and made all who came to her happy and at their best. Fredrika Bremer, the celebrated Norwegian writer, was her guest for several weeks at her home in Ninth Street. Catherine Sedgwick attended several of her receptions, wondering at the charm which drew so many. There Edgar Poe gave the first reading of “The Raven” before it was printed. Ole Bull, who knew her then, was a life-long friend to her. Fanny Kemble, Bryant, Halleck, Willis were all devoted friends.
After her marriage to Professor Vincenzo Botta, nephew of the historian Botta, and their taking a house in Thirty-seventh Street, she gathered around her table the most interesting and distinguished men and women of the day, and the “Saturday Evenings” were continued with increasing crowds. She had a most expressive face and beautiful blue eyes. Never one of the prodigious talkers, dressed most quietly, she was just herself, a sweet-faced, sincere woman, and was blessed with an atmosphere and charm that were felt by all.