I was included among these “men of fashion,” much to my surprise. This fact, forced upon me by contemporary opinion, did not have anything to do with what happened in the spring of 1891, though it was applied in that way. My congregation were not told about it until it was too late to interfere. This I thought wise because there might have been some opposition to my course. I kept it a secret because it was not a matter I could discuss with any dignity. Then, too, I realised that it was going to affect the entire brotherhood of newspaper artists, especially the cartoonists. I shuddered when I thought of the embarrassment this act of mine would cause the country editor with only one Talmage woodcut of many years in his art department. So I did it quietly, without consultation.
In the spring of 1891 I shaved my whiskers.
On April 26, 1891, the new Tabernacle was opened. There were three dedication services and thousands of people came. I was fifty-nine years of age. Up to this time everything had been extraordinary in its conflict, its warnings. I found myself, after over thirty years of service to the Gospel, pastor of the biggest Protestant church in the world. It seems to me there were more men of indomitable success during my career in America than at any other time. There were so many self-made men, so many who compelled the world to listen, and feel and do as they believed—men of remarkable energy, of prophetic genius.
Everywhere in England I had been asked about Cyrus W. Field. He was the hero of the nineteenth century. In his days of sickness and trouble the world remembered him. Of all the population of the earth he was the one man who believed that a wire could be strung across the Atlantic. It took him twelve years of incessant toil and fifty voyages across the Atlantic. I remember well, in 1857, when the cable broke, how everyone joined in the great chorus of “I told you so.” There was a great jubilee in that choral society of wise know-nothings. Thirty times the grapnel searched the bottom of the sea and finally caught the broken cable, and the pluck and ingenuity of Cyrus W. Field was celebrated. Ocean cablegrams had ceased to be a curiosity, but some of us remember the day when they were. I kept a memorandum of the two first messages across the Atlantic that passed between Queen Victoria and President Buchanan in the summer of 1858.
From England, in the Queen’s name, came this:
“To the President of the United States, Washington—
“The Queen desires to congratulate the President upon the successful completion of this great international work, in which the Queen has taken the deepest interest. The Queen is convinced that the President will join with her in fervently hoping that the electric cable which now connects Great Britain with the United States will prove an additional link between the nations whose friendship is founded upon their common interest and reciprocal esteem. The Queen has much pleasure in thus communicating with the President and renewing to him her wishes for the prosperity of the United States.”
The President’s answering cable was as follows: