I long wished to get him to write something for the Magazine, and at last I prevailed with him to review a history of Cambridge which had come out.
He did it charmingly of course, for he loved more to speak of Cambridge than anything else. He held his native town in an idolatry which was not blind, but which was none the less devoted because he was aware of her droll points and her weak points. He always celebrated these as so many virtues, and I think it was my own passion for her that first commended me to him. I was not her son, but he felt that this was my misfortune more than my fault, and he seemed more and more to forgive it. After we had got upon the terms of editor and contributor, we met oftener than before, though I do not now remember that I ever persuaded him to write again for me. Once he gave me something, and then took it back, with a self-distrust of it which I could not overcome.
When the Holmes house was taken down, he went to live with an old domestic in a small house on the street amusingly called Appian Way. He had certain rooms of her, and his own table, but he would not allow that he was ever anything but a lodger in the place, where he continued till he died. In the process of time he came so far to trust his experience of me, that he formed the habit of giving me an annual supper. Some days before this event, he would appear in my study, and with divers delicate and tentative approaches, nearly always of the same tenor, he would say that he should like to ask my family to an oyster supper with him. “But you know,” he would explain, “I haven’t a house of my own to ask you to, and I should like to give you the supper here.” When I had agreed to this suggestion with due gravity, he would inquire our engagements, and then say, as if a great load were off his mind, “Well, then, I will send up a few oysters to-morrow,” or whatever day we had fixed on; and after a little more talk to take the strangeness out of the affair, would go his way. On the day appointed the fish-man would come with several gallons of oysters, which he reported Mr. Holmes had asked him to bring, and in the evening the giver of the feast would reappear, with a lank oil-cloth bag, sagged by some bottles of wine. There was always a bottle of red wine, and sometimes a bottle of champagne, and he had taken the precaution to send some crackers beforehand, so that the supper should be as entirely of his own giving as possible. He was forced to let us do the cooking and to supply the cold-slaw, and perhaps he indemnified himself for putting us to these charges and for the use of our linen and silver, by the vast superfluity of his oysters, with which we remained inundated for days. He did not care to eat many himself, but seemed content to fancy doing us a pleasure; and I have known few greater ones in life, than in the hospitality that so oddly played the host to us at our own table.