Some time after the Civil War James Russell Lowell was asked to go to Chicago to deliver a political speech upholding the Republican Party. It was a great occasion, for Russell was easily the foremost literary and political figure of the day, and his coming was widely advertised. But at the last moment, just before the address was to be delivered, for certain political reasons it was deemed inexpedient by the managers of the affair to have Russell talk politics, and so a hurried announcement was made that Mr. Russell, instead of speaking on the issues of the day, would deliver his celebrated lecture on Shakespeare. This he did, it having been correctly described by critics as the best lecture on the great poet ever delivered.
After the lecture was over, however, one of the Chicago politicians, who doubtless had never heard of Shakespeare, was in his disappointment led to exclaim:
“Hum! I suppose he thought anything was good enough for us!”
The critical instinct grows by what it is fed upon. No matter how well you may do, some people are never satisfied and this is especially true in families.
A Philadelphia divine was entertaining a couple of clergymen from New York at dinner. The guests spoke in praise of a sermon their host had delivered the Sunday before. The host’s son was at the table, and one of the New York clergymen said to him: “My lad, what did you think of your father’s sermon?”
“I guess it was very good,” said the boy, “but there were three mighty fine places where he could have stopped.”
We must not always look down upon those innocent people who may not have had the same cultural influences we have had, although it is some difficult not to smile at their point of view:
Sir Frederick Kenyon, the Director of the British Museum and a man of great knowledge, has had all sorts of funny experiences with visitors there.
Once he was showing a distinguished lady visitor some of the priceless treasures of which he is the custodian, but for a long time nothing seemed to interest her very much.
Then suddenly he noticed a change. Her face lighted up and she leaned forward.
“What is it, madam?” asked Sir Frederick, gratified at this tardy sign of awakening appreciation. “Pray do not hesitate to ask if there is anything you would like to know.”
“So good of you!” chirruped the lady. “I wish you would tell me what brand of blacklead you use on those iron ventilators that are let into the floor. We have the same sort of things at my house, but my maids never get them to shine half so brilliantly.”
Anybody who, a stranger, has tried to find his way about Boston will understand the experience of Mr. Hubb, a native who was addressed by his friend Mr. Penn, from Philadelphia.