At the time the story was imagined Harvard had been for four years much in the direct knowledge of the author, and I pleased myself in realizing the hero’s experience there from even more intimacy with the university moods and manners than had supported me in the studies of an earlier fiction dealing with them. I had not lived twelve years in Cambridge without acquaintance such as even an elder man must make with the undergraduate life; but it is only from its own level that this can be truly learned, and I have always been ready to stand corrected by undergraduate experience. Still, I have my belief that as a jay—the word may now be obsolete—Jeff Durgin is not altogether out of drawing; though this is, of course, the phase of his character which is one of the least important. What I most prize in him, if I may go to the bottom of the inkhorn, is the realization of that anti-Puritan quality which was always vexing the heart of Puritanism, and which I had constantly felt one of the most interesting facts in my observation of New England.
As for the sort of summer hotel portrayed in these pages, it was materialized from an acquaintance with summer hotels extending over quarter of a century, and scarcely to be surpassed if paralleled. I had a passion for knowing about them and understanding their operation which I indulged at every opportunity, and which I remember was satisfied as to every reasonable detail at one of the pleasantest seaside hostelries by one of the most intelligent and obliging of landlords. Yet, hotels for hotels, I was interested in those of the hills rather than those of the shores.
I worked steadily if not rapidly at the story. Often I went back over it, and tore it to pieces and put it together again. It made me feel at times as if I should never learn my trade, but so did every novel I have written; every novel, in fact, has been a new trade. In, the case of this one the publishers were hurrying me in the revision for copy to give the illustrator, who was hurrying his pictures for the English and Australian serializations.
Kittery point, Maine, July, 1909.
If you looked at the mountain from the west, the line of the summit was wandering and uncertain, like that of most mountain-tops; but, seen from the east, the mass of granite showing above the dense forests of the lower slopes had the form of a sleeping lion. The flanks and haunches were vaguely distinguished from the mass; but the mighty head, resting with its tossed mane upon the vast paws stretched before it, was boldly sculptured against the sky. The likeness could not have been more perfect, when you had it in profile, if it had been a definite intention of art; and you could travel far north and far south before the illusion vanished. In winter the head was blotted by the snows; and sometimes the vagrant clouds caught upon it and deformed it, or hid it, at other seasons; but commonly, after the last snow went in the spring until the first snow came in the fall, the Lion’s Head was a part of the landscape, as imperative and importunate as the Great Stone Face itself.