Describing the peculiarities of the chairmen who introduced him, he mentioned one of them who said: "Ladies and gentlemen, next week we will have in our course the most famous magician there is in the world, and the week after, I am happy to say, we shall be honored by the presence of a great opera-singer, a wonderful artist. For this evening it is my pleasure to introduce to you that distinguished English journalist Mr. Edwin Arnold." Mr. Arnold began his lecture with a vigorous denial that he was Edwin Arnold, whom I judged he did not consider in his class.
Mr. Arnold received in New York and in the larger cities which he visited the highest social attention from the leading families. I met him several times and found that he never could be reconciled to our two most famous dishes--terrapin and canvasback duck--the duck nearly raw. He said indignantly to one hostess, who chided him for his neglect of the canvasback: "Madam, when your ancestors left England two hundred and fifty years ago, the English of that time were accustomed to eat their meat raw; now they cook it." To which the lady answered: "I am not familiar with the customs of my ancestors, but I know that I pay my chef, who cooked the duck, three hundred dollars a month."
We were all very fond of Thackeray. He did not have the general popularity of Charles Dickens, nor did he possess Dickens's dramatic power, but he had a large and enthusiastic following among our people. It was an intellectual treat and revelation to listen to him. That wonderful head of his seemed to be an enormous and perennial fountain of wit and wisdom.
They had a good story of him at the Century Club, which is our Athenaeum, that when taken there after a lecture by his friends they gave him the usual Centurion supper of those days: saddlerock oysters. The saddlerock of that time was nearly as large as a dinner-plate. Thackeray said to his host: "What do I do with this animal?"
The host answered: "We Americans swallow them whole."
Thackeray, always equal to the demand of American hospitality, closed his eyes and swallowed the oyster, and the oyster went down. When he had recovered he remarked: "I feel as if I had swallowed a live baby."
We have been excited at different times to an absorbing extent by the stories of explorers. None were more generally read than the adventures of the famous missionary, David Livingstone, in Africa. When Livingstone was lost the whole world saluted Henry M. Stanley as he started upon his famous journey to find him. Stanley's adventures, his perils and escapes, had their final success in finding Livingstone. The story enraptured and thrilled every one. The British Government knighted him, and when he returned to the United States he was Sir Henry Stanley. He was accompanied by his wife, a beautiful and accomplished woman, and received with open arms.
I met Sir Henry many times at private and public entertainments and found him always most interesting. The Lotos Club gave him one of its most famous dinners, famous to those invited and to those who spoke.