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Elliott, Aaron Marshall 

Commemoration of A.Marshall 
Elliott 1844-1910. 













[Repriktkd from the Johns Hopkins University Circular, 
January, 1911] 









Ti.S. 49 

[Rkprintkd from the Johns Hopkins University Circular, 
January, 1911] 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2007 with funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 


A. Marshall Elliott 


A meeting commemorative of Dr. A. Marshall Elliott, 
Professor of the Komanee Languages in this University, 
who died November 9, 1910, was held in the Donovan 
Room, McCoy Hall, Sunday afternoon, December 4, at 
4 o'clock. President Remsen presiding. Addresses were 
delivered by President Remsen, Professors B. L. Gilder- 
sleeve, C. C. Marden, J. W. Bright, E. C. Armstrong, and 
F. De Haan, and Mr. George Whitelock. These addresses 
are printed in the following pages, together with the trib- 
utes paid on other occasions by Professors E. H. Griflfin 
and Henry Wood. 

President Remsen 

President Remsen spoke of those traits of Professor 
Elliott which he considered the most characteristic — his 
cheerfulness, his idealism, and his unselfishness. He 
always appeared cheerful. He looked upon the bright side 
of things. He was an optimist. So kindly was he that, 
even under circumstances when righteous indignation 
would not have appeared out of place, he refrained. He 
had the highest ideals and never wavered in advocating 
them. His influence for good scholarship was felt 
throughout the University, and it spread through the 
country with the aid of those who were trained under 
him. The speaker, in referring to Professor Elliott's 
unselfishness, said he had never known him to ask for 
anything for himself, though he frequently presented the 
cases of others, and seemed always seeking for ways of 
improving the character of the work of his department. 
The entire absence of anything indicating self-seeking was 
a delightful trait in his character. 

It is natural that a man with the traits referred to 
should be a co-operative colleague. He was not one of 
those who simply state a knotty problem and wait for 
some one else to suggest a solution. He always had a 
helpful suggestion to make, and on this account it was a 
pleasure to work with him. 

The devotion of his students and of those associated 
with him in the work of the department of Romance Lan- 
guages was remarkable. I have never seen it equaled. 
He has left to the University a valuable legacy in the 
beautiful harmony of his co-workers. 

Professor Marden 

The death of Professor Elliott closes a long and no- 
table chapter in the annals of modern language work in 
America, a chapter in the making of which his part was 
essential. Of Quaker stock, he was born in Pasquotank 
County, North Carolina, and received his secondary edu- 
cation at the New Garden Boarding School, later known 
as Guilford College. Graduating from Haverford in 
1866, he taught for one year in his home school and then 
entered Harvard, where he received his bachelor's degree 
in 1868. Soon after this he went to Europe and con- 
tinued his studies, returning to America in 1876 as Asso- 
ciate in the first faculty of the Johns Hopkins University. 
The opening years of his connection with this institution 
were devoted to the organization of its Romance work, 
and the success of his efforts was recognized by his pro- 
motion in 1892 to be Professor of the Romance Lan- 

Early in his teaching career he felt the need of unifying 
and broadening the work in Modem Languages, and con- 
ceived the idea of the Modern Language Association of 
America. In 1883, through his initiative, the Associa- 
tion was organized, and he became its first secretary and 
editor of its publications. After nine years of service he 
resigned from these oflfices, but in 1894 served a term as 

In order to furnish a medium for the issuing of critical 
material in the field of Modern Languages, Professor 
Elliott founded in 1886 the Modern Language Notes, of 
which he has remained managing editor up to the present 
time. This journal was created to reflect existing schol- 
arship in America, and above all to raise the standards 
of Modem Language teaching and quicken the interest in 
Modem Language work. Scientific articles; critical re- 
views of text-books; items of academic interest; lists of 

recent publications, of foreign book catalogues, of con- 
tributors to the Notes, — these were made the means to 
attain its aim. The same energy and resourcefulness that 
gave life to the Modern Language Association overcame 
the mechanical and financial difficulties which confronted 
him in publishing the Notes. There was but one sub- 
scriber to the first issue. During the first seventeen 
years the journal was printed in a shed in the back yard 
of his residence, while the editing and most of the folding, 
sewing, wrapping and addressing was done in his library. 

Professor Elliott's training as a scholar was excep- 
tional. Eight years of residence, travel and study in 
Europe gave him the broad foundation which is one of the 
striking features of his teaching and his writings. His 
first inclination seems to have been toward specializing 
in Oriental languages, but at the same time the compara- 
tively new science of Romance philology commanded a 
liberal share of his interest. Upon his return to America 
this interest in the modern field was intensified by the 
manifest need of raising to the plane of academic studies 
the languages which had hitherto been regarded mainly 
as a medium for colloquial intercourse. He was well 
equipped for leadership by his intimate knowledge of the 
educational conditions and the languages of the various 
European countries — a knowledge kept fresh by his 
yearly trips abroad. 

In the field of productive scholarship he was a frequent 
contributor, during his early years, to Education, the 
Journal of Education, the American Journal of Phi- 
lology, the Transactions of the Modern Language Asso- 
ciation, and Modern Language Notes. His contributions 
ranged from general themes, such as "Modem Languages 
as a College Discipline," to such special topics as "Verbal 
Parasynthetics in -a" or "The Origin of the Name Can- 
ada." His chief fields of work were, however, French 
dialects and early French literature. His published 
studies on Canadian French belong to the period before 

1885; his edition of the fables of Marie de France, which 
death left incomplete, formed the center of his labors 
during the last two decades of his life. 

But it was as a teacher that he rendered his greatest 
service to scholarship. He knew what constitutes good 
work; he knew the severe discipline it demands, and he 
upheld and enforced his ideals. But, while he criticised 
and at times reproved, he had the rare power to do this 
without disheartening or discouraging. His relations to 
his pupils were as of father to child; his personal influ- 
ence was no less potent than his learning, and has left an 
imprint that will endure. Scholars and teachers whom 
he formed are continuing his work in every part of Amer- 
ica, the first links of an unending chain. 

In every field of his activity his touch was firm, his 
foresight sure. The Modern Language Association has 
amply justified his faith; Modern Language Notes has 
vindicated his belief in its needfulness. Modern lan- 
guages have their place as a study of scientific value, and 
our Romance departments show increasing efficiency com- 
mensurate with their rapid increase in numbers. 

Strongest of all Professor Elliott's titles to esteem was 
his personality. Frank but gentle, his criticism chas- 
tened, but left no sting ; his praise where merited was not 
withheld nor stinted in its measure. His genial altruism 
was reflected in all his dealings, and even those who knew 
him only by correspondence quickly came to feel that his 
interest in them and their work was personal and lasting. 
In perplexity or trouble all instinctively turned to him, 
and found him of ready counsel and unfailing good cheer. 
When, in his closing days, pain laid a heavy hand upon 
him, his thought was still of others and their comfort. 
Knowing they suffered in his suffering, his only words 
were words of hopefulness. And to the last his chosen 
themes were his pupils, colleagues, friends and work. 
Respect, admiration, and love for him are a bond that 
holds together those who knew him and those who knew 
him not but honored his name. 

Professor Gildersleevb 

One of the earliest Fellows of the Johns Hopkins Uni- 
versity, the late John Henry Wheeler, and one of the most 
brilliant, said to me: "It is a perpetual sorrow to me 
that I was not born in time to take an active part in the 
Civil War. It matters little on which side, in comparison 
with the joy of having lived and fought in that heroic 
age." I could sympathize with him to a certain extent, 
but there are manifest drawbacks to those memories — 
to some loss of fortune, to some the perpetual reminder of 
bodily disability, to all sorrow for the dead, whose com- 
panionship for the best years of life was sadly missed. 
But there are no real drawbacks to the memories of the 
early days of the Johns Hopkins University, and one of 
our illustrious alumni. Professor Royce, a thinker of 
world-wide reputation, has given vivid expression to his 
joy in recalling those glorious times, the opening of a new 
era of intellectual life in America. I do not underrate 
the sober accomplishment of the generation that has 
passed since then. The work of today is worthy of the 
aims of 1876, and we seem to be on the edge of a new life 
that will merge the old life in its radiance. But to the 
few survivors of that joyous storm and eager stress noth- 
ing can ever have the personal value of those first few 
years. Charles Wesley sings of the sweet comfort and 
peace of a soul in its earliest love ; but he is singing of a 
divine love. There was not much comfort in the hallbed- 
room studies and kitchen laboratories. There was not 
much peace in the to-and-fro of drawing up programmes 
and holding consultations and going to lectures in order 
to encourage our colleagues, but it was a glorious time 
for all that and by reason of all that, and that was the 
time when Elliott came to us, and, as one of the few sur- 
vivors of that decisive period in the history of the Uni- 
versity, I have been asked to say something about the 


fellow- worker whom I valued and the friend whom I 
loved. It is a double loss — for me irreparable. Of late 
he has seemed to be much nearer to me than he did 
then, for the gap in years fills up as time goes on. You 
will hardly believe me when I say that he who is your 
President and mine today, seemed to a man of forty-five 
only a promising young professor who was destined to do 
good things and great things for the University, and that 
Elliott was to me a mere youngster when he came, a 
welcome recruit to the little band of scholars, some of 
whom became our garrison, some of whom went ofif, to use 
one of President Gilman's favorite figures, as a flying 
column. There was something almost romantic about 
this new recruit we called Elliott. He had lived and 
studied abroad for years. He was versed in various 
European languages. He was an Oriental scholar. He 
lived the life of the peoples whose languages he studied, 
and there is no real mastery of a language unless you 
know the life of the people. He learned Arabic, he once 
told me, sitting on his haunches, to use his own direct lan- 
guage, and chanting the Koran as did the Arab boys. 
He learned Spanish by consorting with the hidalgos in 
the Carlist troubles. Whenever he opened the treasures 
of his memory, he produced curios from all climes. He 
knew every nook and corner of Europe, as it seemed to 
me. If one thought of going to Wales, he could give you 
without a moment's hesitation the best points for a 
tourist to take in and a discriminating list of the best 
hotels. Did you want a place where you could be quiet 
and comfortable, he knew where you should go; in fact, 
he had spent some seasons at a place in Belgium, slurred 
over by the guide-books, where one had all the conven- 
iences of a gentleman's club and all the charm of a noble- 
man's park. Then there was a hotel of which the travel- 
ling public knew little or nothing, a delightful hotel, 
perched on the slopes of the Alps as you go down to the 
plains of Italy, the very abode in which to repair the dam- 


ages of exhausting study. No one had so much life in 
him, had it so abundantly, so redundantly, I might say. 
His enthusiasm welled out from him. I have called it 
a delightful flow, but it came rather in a series of jets 
that seemed to be a flow — they rose in such rapid succes- 
sion. And what he was in society he was in the class 
room. There are teachers and teachers — teachers who 
present their subjects with such admirable clearness, 
such perfect proportion, that you are apt in your vision 
of the theme to forget the man, and there are others who 
incarnate their themes. And though I have never heard 
Professor Elliott lecture to his men, he must have be- 
longed to this latter class. His range of knowledge, I 
could see, was vast, his knowledge of details marvellous. 
Ko mere enthusiast could have commanded such respect, 
nor could have made success in his department a passport 
to honor and high position, but the virtue that went out 
of him was born of his vitality. And his pupils are the 
best fruits of the work of his life. Years ago Francis 
James Child said to me : "I remember the time when in 
the British Museum I conceived the plan of giving up 
my life to the study of the ballad literature of England 
and Scotland. It has been my happiness." It was the 
Gibbon story over again, the story of other lives besides 
those of Child and Gibbon. But Child was fortunate 
enough to finish his great work down to the index. ''Who 
is going to prepare the index?" he was asked. ''Prepare 
the index?" he echoed, "no one shall prepare the index 
but myself." Elliott had found his task, but, as happens 
to others, his reach lengthened as his horizon expanded. 
The results of his study of Marie de France are to be seen 
in the works of his pupils; the index is in their hearts. 
No man that I have ever known, and I have known some 
attractive personalities among teachers, no man that I 
ever knew so bound his students to him by ties of per- 
sonal affection as did Elliott. And no wonder; he lived 
for them and in them. He gave himself unstintedly, and 


if his published work is less in bulk than might have been 
expected of his long activity, it is due not only to the 
merciless exactions of an ideal, but to his generous con- 
tributions to the work of others. The intellectual legacy 
he left his men is great. It will be the treasure of Ro- 
manic scholars for years to come. His influence as a 
leader in his line of work is acknowledged all over the 
world, and has found official recognition where he valued 
it most. But the moral legacy seems to me even more 
precious, and I was deeply impressed by the spiritual 
light with which Dean Griflfin in his recent address in- 
vested the work of the life that was ended on this side, 
after suffering endured with unsurpassed heroism. The 
love of Christians for one another was a marvel to the 
pagan. It was no marvel to those to whom had been 
revealed the Divine Head. And the unity of the Ro- 
manic department, the unselfishness of its members, each 
in honor preferring one another, can only be understood 
by the light of the example set by their departed leader. 
In loving ministry they are followers of him as he was a 
follower of the Great Master. This is a tribute which 
only one who is not in the same line of work could pay, 
and I pay it with my whole heart. No teacher could ask 
for more. 

Some weeks ago, when the shadows were gathering 
round our exemplar, one of his close friends asked me 
for an estimate of Elliott's work and influence. Perhaps 
some of you may not have seen it. I will allow myself 
to read it here, with a few changes to conform with the 
other great change : 

The serious and painful illness of Professor Marshall 
Elliott called forth expressions of the closest sympathy 
from his wide range of friends within and without aca- 
demic circles, sympathy which was deepened and height- 
ened by the heroic fortitude with which he bore his pro- 
tracted suffering. And now the end has come. Inti- 
mately associated with the life of the Johns Hopkins Uni- 
versity from the beginning of its active work, Professor 

Elliott was a conspicuous member of that band of gifted 
and enthusiastic young men whom President Gilman gath- 
ered about his standard in 1878 and who did so much to 
carry out the far-reaching plans of their chief. Amply 
furnished for his line of endeavor by long study in Euro- 
pean centres, familiar with many languages and, which 
is no less important, conversant with the life of the peo- 
ples as well as their speech, Professor Elliott's mastery 
was evident from the beginning; and, although his pub- 
lished contributions to the literature of his chosen do- 
main have of late years been restricted partly by the exac- 
tions of an ideal that became more and more exalted 
with his own advance, but especially by the generous 
spirit which spent itself in guiding and enriching the 
work of others, still his leadership in promoting the study 
of the Romanic languages in America has been freely and 
gratefully acknowledged on all hands at home and abroad. 
It was a moral as well as an intellectual leadership, and 
of that leadership it may safely be said that no one ever 
had more enthusiastic followers, no one ever inspired his 
men with a stronger affection. And the secret of his suc- 
cess is an open secret, not only to those whose studies he 
guided and to those who were honored by his friendship, 
but to all who were brought into contact with him in the 
social circles which he made radiant by his genial pres- 
ence, by his kindly humor, which knew no touch of 
malice, by his delightful flow of illuminating talk. His 
withdrawal from the work of the University darkened 
the ways of all who walk in the same paths of study ; his 
withdrawal from life is a withdrawal of light to those 
who loved the man in the scholar and admired the scholar 
in the man. 

Other tributes to him have been published. There is a 
singular coincidence in them all. Some works of nature 
and art are recognizable everywhere. One is not at a loss 
in identifying a picture of Niagara, a painting of the 
Matterhorn, a photograph of Mont St. Michel. The 
roughest draftsman cannot fail to bring out the salient 
features, and in like manner every line of my sketch finds 
its match elsewhere. It was no everyday man that has 
been removed from our fellowship, and the clear image 
of his personality is radiant with the love of all who 
really knew him. 


Professor Bright 

The academic career of Professor Elliott was dominated 
by the shared purpose to gain and maintain for the study 
of the Romance languages in our American universities 
a co-ordination in acknowledged scientific dignity and 
importance with the most accredited branches of knowl- 
edge. But, although his entire official life was with mani- 
fest consistency devoted to this purpose, it must remain 
a regret that he has not bequeathed an autobiographic 
account of the inception and progress of the plans that 
filled his dreams and sustained his hopes. 

It is when dreams have come true and hopes have 
passed into realities that the brightest colors in the ante- 
cedent life of the emotional agents of such events tend 
to fade from the general memory. This process of change 
from vividness of impression to the quiet and more or less 
neutral hues of traditional acceptance may be expected 
to be hastened under the conditions of the rapid succes- 
sion of academic generations. Succeeding classes of 
students may with light hearts enter into heritages of 
opportunity that have been procured at the price of a 
life's devotion to an ideal. It is but a proof of the law 
that losses are inevitable in the transmission of emotional 
values. Even when the vision of the future that allures 
the young man has been duly corrected through a trained 
regard of the past, through an historic estimate of the 
present, there will still inevitably be oversight and forget- 
fulness, in some measure, of the more subtle elements in 
the careers of predecessors, because of this difficulty in 
the exact transmission of the truth of feelings and im- 
pulses. The biographer has, therefore, need of spiritual 
and poetic insight, and such autobiographic notes as may 
help to reveal the inspired moods that have determined a 
course of action are inestimable. It is this thought that 
leads one to regret that our departed colleague has not 


left a self -expressing record of some of those experiences 
that have so surely constituted the most notable part of 
his career; for that career, though unmistakably marked 
by obvious strength and coherence of purpose, is to be 
understood in its complete meaning by a consideration of 
those imaginative and emotional elements of power and of 
influence that so easily escape general observation. 

There is no room for doubt in any mind as to what 
Professor Elliott would especially wish us to think of 
to-day. How characteristically would not his modest 
injunction be that we think of the interesting and diflB- 
cult beginning that had to be made in the modern phi- 
lologies, and of how rapidly and completely all that 
has been changed. Indeed, we can almost hear him say, 
*A small group of us worked together in those early days 
with a freshness of enthusiasm that made life a new joy ; 
and such experiences will always be worth recalling.' 

The opening years of this University were coincident 
with very important philological events. These events 
were primarily European, but became almost instantane- 
ously effective in America. After the death of Friedrich 
Diez, called the father of Komance philology, in the year 
1876, his influence quickened new zeal at the beginning of 
that productive activity in this and the other branches 
of modem philology which so thoroughly startled the 
world of learning. The spirit of the new scholars — a 
certain division of them evoked the designation of *neo- 
grammarians', partly in derision, it must be confessed — 
was the spirit of thoroughgoing reformers. It was hard 
to believe that so much of revision was needed in the most 
venerated science of philology, and the new "methodology" 
had to win its way through the severest tests both in 
speculative theory and in demonstrated truth. 

Without the use of technical details, it is, of course, not 
possible to convey more than a mere hint of the character 
of this philological renaissance. It was an international 
movement of supreme importance, because it involved the 


education of each nation in the truth of its own history. 
The wider aspects of the new doctrine concerned the gen- 
eral philosophy of language, and these were, therefore, 
also of supreme importance. The scholar has seldom 
known more stimulating times. 

Although it was almost exclusively foreign scholarship 
that directly effected this new life in the philological 
world, the movement may with accuracy be called inter- 
national. The historian is warranted in regarding the 
Philadelphia Exposition of 1876, the year already referred 
to in the annals of Komance philology, as marking the 
beginning of a new educational era in America. That 
which was then universal in the educational awakening 
of Europe and America prepared America for the im- 
portation of the more specifically foreign scholarship. It 
came to be a widely recognized problem, this problem of 
how we should adopt or adapt European methods in 
higher education. The situation was attractive to the 
theorist, but it was inspiring — and how inspiring ! — to the 
scholar, to the lover of truth, of progress in the highest 

To the scholar thus inspired in those days, the opening 
of the Johns Hopkins University offered opportunities 
that were practically all that could be desired. In an 
atmosphere of the widest tolerance there was granted a 
charter of academic freedom and of personal encourage- 
ment that, one must believe, had never before been equaled 
in America. Surely never before had so simple and so 
lofty an educational plan been inaugurated at a time 
more favorable to its execution. 

Professor Elliott took his place among the scholars into 
whose hands were committed these new interests of the 
several branches of learning. In his particular task he at 
once became prophetic, and as a far-seeing leader played 
a conspicuous part in bringing about those changes in 
the aims and methods of modern language scholarship by 

which the American system of education has been so com- 
pletely re-cast during the past quarter of a century. 

The work for which Professor Elliott will be perma- 
nently remembered in our educational history is dis- 
tinctly of three divisions. He established and conducted 
the courses in Romance philology in this University, and 
he was the principal agent in the organization of the 
Modem Language Association and in the founding of the 
periodical entitled Modern Language Notes. 

Of his work and influence within the University in the 
stricter sense, it belongs to others to speak to-day; but I 
must be permitted to say a word that no one else could 
possibly say. Belonging to those personal debts that 
are as deep and as enduring as the truest feelings of 
one's nature is the debt I owe to Professor Elliott for his 
sympathetic help in the problems of my own career. 
There was an intimacy that bound us together in those 
days when one had to walk by faith, through which I 
derived the benefits of his wider experience and the glow 
of a warm friendship. 

Professor Elliott regarded his work within the Univer- 
sity as having definite relations to the wider needs of the 
entire country. The undeveloped state of the study of 
the modem languages and literatures in our secondary 
schools and in our colleges had come to be felt to be a 
national reproach. He was not only as strongly im- 
pressed as any one by the obvious facts of deficiency, but 
he surpassed the keenest observer in suggesting and put- 
ting into operation agencies and methods by which chiefly 
the needed reform was effected. Nothing less than na- 
tional significance must now be ascribed to the two brief 
circular letters he sent out from this University November 
16 and December 15, 1883, asking professors of modem 
languages to meet in New York City for the discussion of 
two subjects: (1) "The establishment of a permanent 
organization of teachers of modem languages in this 
country;" (2) "Methods of teaching modem languages 


and means of elevating the standard of instruction in 
modem languages in our schools and colleges." 

These letters elicited a hearty and encouraging response 
from a comparatively small number of scholars; a few 
more responded favorably, as if under the force of pro- 
fessional obligation; others came with more serious 
doubts as to the propriety of the meeting ; and some came, 
representing a then familiar type of adventurer under the 
guise of language-master, who should, of course, not have 
come. There was puzzling variety and uncertainty in 
notions of standards and aims, and troublesome diversity 
in proposed plans of action. In these circumstances Pro- 
fessor Elliott proved himself masterful. He encouraged 
the freest discussion of all questions, and by the charm 
of his personality seemed to impart to all alike a sense 
of security against unpleasant consequences of honesty of 
conviction and frankness of expression. His influence 
was atmospheric, so to speak. However wide of the mark 
the proceedings might at times seem to be running, no 
one could escape the conviction that the main purpose 
was being deepened in every mind, and that, too, chiefly 
under the inspiration of the directing officer. 

The leadership thus begun was continued — to reckon 
only the years of uniform official relation to the Asso- 
ciation — through nine years. The strain and self-sacrifice 
of those years of the secretaryship of the Association, 
earned the reward of an unwavering devotion to a pro- 
foundly conceived duty. 

After the Association had been organized. Professor 
Elliott at once proceeded to the second part of his plan 
and with several associates began the publication of the 
periodical that was to encourage the more technical schol- 
arship in the modem languages and literatures. This 
beginning was also far more of an innovation than is 
likely to be perceived by the average historian. 

The history of the Association and of the Modem 
Language Notes remains to be written. Some years ago 


Professor Elliott expressed to me a cherished intention 
to sum up his observations on the changes and progress 
of the first quarter of a century. The Publications of the 
Modern Language Association of America and the Modern 
Language Notes are this month both brought to the close 
of a twenty-fifth volume. I am sure that the colleague 
with whom I have been associated in so much of the work 
to which I have thus briefly directed our thoughts would 
have wished this division of his life's work to be as grate- 
fully called to mind at this hour as it was hopefully 
bestowed. A note of thankfulness for what has been 
accomplished would have sounded through his own 
account of the quarter of a century. To us is left the 
chastening lesson of mournful but thankful reflection 
upon the good deeds of a well-spent life. 

Professor De Haan 

Some personal observations and experiences may help 
to make clear why we who worked under and with Pro- 
fessor Elliott were and are so fondly attached to him. 

In the summer when I decided to join the Romance 
Department I read in a newspaper from Amsterdam the 
editor's description of a vacation tour in Wales. It had 
been his good fortune to meet a professor from Johns 
Hopkins who, learning that the other was a Hollander, 
had asked permission to look into his mouth to see how 
he formed certain peculiarly difficult sounds of the Dutch 
language, and then and there had been able to reproduce 
them himself exactly. And he had also by the same 
means shown his Dutch companion how to pronounce 
some vexing Welsh sounds, whose difficulties were quickly 
overcome under such guidance. Of course, no sooner had 
I come to Baltimore and met Hopkins men than I spoke 
of the incident and was told that the one in question 
must have been Professor Elliott. A while later, when I 


stood in his presence, I told him what I had read, where- 
upon he laughed that hearty laugh we know so well and 
the like of which we shall not find, and said: "Did he 
write of that? Well, it was his first acquaintance with 
phonetics!" This simple modesty made an impression 
that grew ever deeper as time went by. 

The years of my work in many schools of my native 
country had been followed by half a dozen of teaching 
in an American University where the technical branches 
outweighed all others. There I often found crude country 
lads or former mechanics, earnest to become engineers; 
but though esteeming their firmness of purpose I failed 
to learn the fundamental difference between European 
and American institutions of higher instruction. One 
word from Mr. Elliott enlightened me. After several 
months of work under him I ventured to say that I had 
sometimes wondered whether the department might not 
gain by some entrance requirement like translating a few 
lines of Latin into French. His answer was: "That 
would have excluded Menger." And we who knew Menger 
knew that he was the best man who had yet come, one 
who came with no French at all, but pluckily was making 
and did make his way to the very front. Then it became 
clear to me that my European view of the approach to 
higher learning having to rest upon privilege of birth and 
means was not in accord with the democratic way of 
America, where one's chance is made of his own effort, 
and I felt better for the knowledge. 

And Professor Elliott practised what thus he taught. 
Devotion to one's work was his example and his foremost 
demand ; absolute fairness marked his every act, and who- 
ever showed warm enthusiasm in his chosen studies was 
allowed ample scope to follow his own bent. His knowl- 
edge of his men, his tact in dealing with them, his interest 
in their progress never failed. When they were chosen 
by other institutions, how carefully he watched over their 
scholarly and material interests! When promotion came 

to them in their career, his word of greeting was of the 
first to come, warm and hearty as of a very close friend. 
It is things like these that we can never forget. 

Mr. Whitelock 

A. Marshall Elliott was no ordinary personality. It 
is his colleagues who must appraise the technical value 
of his learning, but all who knew him recognized the 
great teacher — a teacher of teachers. 

One-half of his career was spent in preparation for the 
work which found its fruition here. Born in the South, 
educated in the North, matured by arduous and contin- 
uous study for eight years beyond seas, highly assimilative 
and signally emancipated from local prejudice and all 
chauvinism, he came to us, not merely national, but richly 
cosmopolitan. The whole of his great faculty was exer- 
cised generously throughout the second half of his life in 
upbuilding this University, and in the propaganda of his 
new gospel through the Modern Language Notes and the 
Modem Language Association, which he founded. We 
who attested it can never forget the exuberant enthusiasm 
which he brought to us from lands where the heart is 
younger than in youthful America. The man was mani- 
fest in the spirit of his work, and no student failed to 
experience the inspiration and the uplift of that spirit. 
Intimate association with him was a liberal aid to one's 
own evolution. 

Marshall Elliott knew that scholarship is not intuition ; 
that it is sustained only by aggressive research and con- 
stant re-examination. He abode in that faith until his 
last hour, accepting always in their entirety the results 
of honest and accurate investigation, whether they con- 
firmed the old truth or revealed the new. Thus he ful- 
filled the motto of this University, "Veritas vos liberabit." 


Keenly perceptive and never didactic, he possessed in 
marked degree the faculty of sympathetic instruction. 
Reserve in him bore the charm of mystery ; it never raised 
a doubt as to the integrity of his information. None 
ever thought him near the brink of his own knowledge. A 
university based upon scholarship such as his rests upon 
a sure foundation. 

I recall the first line we read in Italian. It ran, 
"Every beginning is difficult" (Ogni principio § difficile). 
He found it so in the America of a generation ago. But 
the pioneer in Romance Philology lived to merit and re- 
ceive the decoration of the Legion of Honor for splendid 
achievement in advancing the cause of scholarship, and to 
bequeath that decoration to the institution which his 
learning has enriched. In consequence of his foresight 
and labor, scientific methods are applied in America to 
the study of the modem languages, which have been 
raised academically to the rank and dignity of the clas- 
sics and disciplinary subjects. The path blazed by him 
in youth is now become the open highway of scholars. 
Many live for an ideal ; he attained it. 

Admiration for Dr. Elliott was first an impulse, then 
a conviction. To us students of the early days he stood 
long since revealed as the world now sees him, the leader 
and master: "Tu Duca, tu Signore e tu Maestro." 

Marshall Elliott was my friend in the loyalty of un- 
broken intimacy for thirty-four years. "How oft we two 
talked do\sTi the sun!" No man had higher endowment 
for friendship. Not belligerent or egotistical, but gentle, 
affectionate, tolerant and sympathetic; never vindictive; 
incapable of malice or envy, and always magnanimous, he 
won all hearts by modesty, cordiality and unselfishness. 
His humor was unfailing and irresistible; his imagina- 
tion delightful. He had few peers as a raconteur, and 
the memory of his anecdotes is ineffaceable. 

Goethe declared that it is the commonplace which is the 
hindrance of us all (Das was uns alle bandigt — das 


Gemeine). Here was the exception that proved the 
rule — a man whose aspiration was infinite, whose interest 
was inexhaustible, whose culture was universal, who 
thought in centuries, not in hours, who subjugated the 
commonplace. His devoted friends were of every nation. 
His friendships were immortal. To travel with him to 
old haunts in Europe was to witness an ovation of wel- 
come from all classes. 

The circles of our felicities are said to make short 
arches, and Marshall Elliott came in the fullness of time 
upon pain and sorrow. But in the last asperity he knew 
no embitterment ; his own soul suffered no malady, for 
his fortitude more than equaled his calamity. The truth 
had set him free. Tribute is inadequate, since our loss 
is irreparable. But grief is assuaged by gratitude that 
we have known and loved him. 

Professor Armstrong 

Among the many interesting sides of Professor Elliott's 
personality, it is perhaps fitting that I should choose for 
mention today those that bear especially on his relations 
to his department and its members. 

In the early days of the Johns Hopkins, there were no 
American models to guide in the shaping of coherent uni- 
versity courses in the Romance languages, nor was there 
a sufficient recognition of the need for such courses. 
Thus, while hampering traditions were absent, it was al- 
most certain that the work of construction, if undertaken, 
would progress slowly and might run constant risk of 
being completely blocked. That to Professor Elliott was 
given the opportunity to inaugurate this work is one of 
the numerous evidences of President Oilman's skill in ad- 
justing the man to the task. The characteristics as an 
administrator that constantly impressed those who were 
closely associated with Elliott were his foresight and 


tenacity and his patience and gentleness — qualities essen- 
tial to the success of plans the realization of which, step 
by step, occupied thirty-four years of his life. 

It was in Europe that Professor Elliott had acquired 
his conception of Romance languages as a fitting subject 
for scientific study, but certainly long before I first knew 
him he had formulated and was bending his efforts toward 
an organization and distribution of the Romance work 
into a system such as has even now, in all its details, been 
arrived at by few if any European institutions — a system 
which had as its aims the placing of at least the three 
principal Romance languages each in the hands of trained 
specialists; the giving of equal weight to the analytic 
study of literature and of grammar ; the providing of in- 
struction in the relations of the three languages to each 
other, to the less familiar Romance idioms, and to the 
Latin, of which they are all continuations. An ambitious 
program this must have seemed in the days when unaided 
he had to provide all the advanced instruction in the 
Romance languages, yet a program from the ultimate 
attainment of which he never deviated. Time and again 
he saw portions of the structure he was building crumble 
away; and at times almost the whole of a staff he had 
trained during years for their posts was drawn from him 
by the growing pressure for teachers throughout the 
country, so that he would have to begin over again almost 
at the foundations. But he never faltered, never seemed 
to grow impatient. I have known him to introduce an in- 
novation that he foresaw would subject him to criticism 
from those who did not grasp what end he had in view, 
and to maintain it during fifteen years in the face of such 
criticism, because he believed that it would serve in the 
end as a step toward a detail of his general purpose. 
Such tenacity and such courage could hardly fail of suc- 
cess. He lived to see his plan carried out in its outline 
and in many of its details, some of the fruits of his years 
of effort maturing only after his last illness had begun. 


The success of Professor Elliott in bringing out the best 
that was in his scholars was due to various causes, but 
to none more than to the personal tie he established from 
the first letter or interview, and maintained throughout 
their careers. He had a large correspondence with pro- 
spective students of language, which nearly always went 
back for its beginnings to a letter of inquiry or an inter- 
view perhaps casual. Frequently he guided for years in 
their studies men he had never seen. Some of them be- 
came later his pupils here; some who were not planning 
to come here or who were never able to carry out their 
plan look back to his letters as the occasion of their enter- 
ing on academic work or as the stimulus that enabled 
them to make that work effective. Those who did come 
underwent straightway a quickening influence on their 
lives and work. We felt he was friend as well as teacher. 
All difficulties were sooner or later carried to him — prob- 
lems of study, of health, of finance, problems of the af- 
fections as well. Nor did this end with graduation. 
There were few of his old students that did not hasten to 
write him of their successes and their failures, or to seek 
his counsel in moments of uncertainty. The alumni are 
scattered over the whole country, yet there is a coherence 
among them that not simply reflects Elliott — it is Elliott. 
Is it strange that his illness and death have called forth 
manifold testimony to this personal relation and influ- 
ence? I quote from a letter which has been placed in my 
hands and which came only a short time ago from an old 
pupil whose pen has since been laid down forever: "I 
wonder if you remember the time I first met you. It was 
in Monument Square; I was so immature that I scarcely 
knew what I wanted except this one fact that I wanted 
to learn and knew I could work. I felt so small and 
ignorant that I did not know what to say. Yet before 
the interview was over I was at ease and was confident 
that you would lead me. And you never failed me. I 
could always come to you and meet the encouragement I 


needed. If I have accomplished anything in our work, 1 
owe it to your inspiration, and the same is true of every 
other man who had the good fortune to be your pupil." 
Another writes: "Like many others, I owe everything I 
am or have been, academically, to him, and the amount 
of my indebtedness becomes more and more apparent as 
the years go by." Still another has told me how, as he 
sat in Elliott's library and recounted his troubles, his 
feelings mastered him, and how he looked up to find that 
Elliott too was in tears. 

This intimate and fatherly concern for hill men found 
its fullest expression in Professor Elliott's relations with 
his staff, most of whom had been also his pupils. He 
made a study of each man, sought to find the place best 
adapted to his capacities, and to aid him in filling it. He 
was as ready to assume his share of responsibility in our 
failures as he was to give us all the credit for our suc- 
cesses. His sympathetic hopefulness manifested itself 
most when most needed. He could be dubious when we 
were confident and eager, but whenever we tended to 
despair of ourselves he refused to despair of us. 

The young teachers he gathered about him were cer- 
tainly none too docile, and his method of dealing with us 
increased during many years his administrative burdens : 
in all that he felt was not essential he was prompt to make 
concessions to his subordinates, and in the rest he sought 
to convince rather than to prevail by force of his au- 
thority. As we look back, we can realize what skill he 
showed. Where he yielded to us, our best efforts were 
given to so executing our plans that their success should 
justify our claims; and where he had his way we could 
hardly withhold our co-operation. If we learned to work 
together unitedly and fraternally, it is due to the spirit 
he manifested, a spirit that provided for us an ever-present 
model in our dealings with him and with each other. 

It was during Professor Elliott's long illness that his 
thought for others manifested itself most clearly as the 


dominant feature of his character. The university inter- 
ests which had been committed to his charge and the 
pupils of all epochs who had studied with him filled his 
thoughts, often to the seeming exclusion of a recollection 
of his own sufferings. He suggested his retirement from 
the staff of the University on account of his disabled con- 
dition, and relinquished the idea only when assured that 
his resignation could not be considered, and that arrange- 
ments could be made to care for the work of the depart- 
ment should he not be able to take an active part. He 
followed closely all the plans for that work and took the 
keenest interest in the solution of its problems. He was 
eager for news of every one of his pupils, present or past. 
On hearing of the merited but delayed advancement of 
one of his men, whom he had not seen for years, he sat up 
in bed and clapped his hands three times most enthusias- 
tically. No word at any time indicated to us that he did 
not hope to recover his health. "When I am better," 
'•when I am able to be about again," were phrases that 
constantly recurred in his conversation. "So-and-so was 
in to see me yesterday and seemed rather blue, but I had 
him laughing before he left." Yet all the while he was 
arranging each detail for the time when he should no 
longer be here. This cheerful and hopeful attitude was 
maintained even when we knew from the attendant at his 
bedside that all he asked was quick release. When I saw 
him on the seventh of November, his brief words were of 
the work and of my welfare, and his face lighted up with 
the same genial smile with which he had seventeen years 
before greeted me, an incoming student. 

It was not simply, perhaps not even mainly, that he 
was making a brave fight. The last ten months were the 
culmination of a lifetime of kindliness and courtesy; he 
willed that those who came to cheer him should still 
themselves find good cheer in his presence and in the 
thought of him. 


The results of Professor Elliott's activities will be of no 
less moment in the future than they have been up to now. 
To the elevation of standards and methods which he 
effected in his lifetime is added the ever widening influ- 
ence of the large group of old pupils whose greatest desire 
is to conserve and extend his work, for they are the chil- 
dren not alone of his brain, but of his heart. 

Professor Wood 

[Paper presented before the Johns Hopkins Philological Associa- 
tion at its meeting of December 16, 1910] 

The records of this Association show that Professor 
Elliott, in the extended period of his connection with it, 
read eighteen communications, seven of them longer 
ones. During the earlier years his articles followed each 
other rapidly, two and occasionally three each year. 
Then came more extended communications, presented 
more infrequently, while towards the end long silences 
ensued. The impression produced, especially during these 
later periods, is one of serious and sustained endeavor, of 
which only an occasional echo reached this body — a style 
of work "where more is meant than meets the ear.'* 

If a stranger to this Association had been charged with 
the duty of reviewing Professor Elliott's long participa- 
tion in its labors, he would find in the bulk of the written 
and published papers occasion enough for congratulating 
our society on the now varied and miscellaneous, now 
direct, incisive and consistent activity of our departed 
member. But such a one would be apt to pause now and 
then in his task, to note with unavailing regret that many 
of these articles hint at, or explicitly promise, continua- 
tions and further development, of which there is no sign. 
The mind of a fellow-member, appointed to the same duty, 
dwells scarcely at all on what remained unperformed, save 


to read into the articles justification of an occasional 
impression they convey of incompleteness. He thinks 
rather of the man, of the conditions nnder which he 
labored, and of the very gradual growth of Romance lan- 
guage study in this country during the last thirty years, 
from adverse beginnings to what may now be called a 
philological disciplina of the first rank. 

Inasmuch as this development took place largely under 
Professor Elliott's militant captaincy, it is not strange 
that the nature and scope of the papers he presented to 
this audience were nearly always conditioned by their 
availability for the group of studies he was laboriously 
engaged in building up. His investigations, with the 
single exception of the one on ^'Chauvinism," were in no 
sense private, though they uniformly bore a highly indi- 
vidual stamp. In one instance he called his paper "A 
first brief, presented for the Romance Languages." 
Where this element of the programme, the pronounce- 
ment, was lacking, his communications were portions of 
far-reaching seminary studies, presented in this place to 
the larger university audience. His four papers on 
"Speech-Mixture in Canada" form no exception to this 
uniform tendency, and when in the end he turned from 
this theme, without having fully exploited it, to the early 
Fable literature, the change seems to have been dictated, 
in the first instance, by a wholly unselfish consideration 
of what would make for the highest interests of his stu- 
dents and young co-workers. 

In attempting to convey the impression produced by 
I'rofessor Elliott's relation to this, his best beloved sub- 
ject, the mind reverts to the personality and the methods 
of a former member of this body, in temperament and 
discursive ability closely akin to him, but whose manner 
of work was wholly dissimilar. I refer to Professor 
Morris. To listen to Morris was to find that most se- 
verely distant of the Greek authors of our own university 
days, Thucydides, as b^uiling as a Pindar in the hands 


of our philological chief. Professor Morris stood at the 
head of no seminary organization; for him the Philo- 
logical Association took the place of it, and fortunate 
indeed were we of the earlier days in listening to his dis- 
entanglement of philological and topographical controver- 
sies concerning the Sicilian expedition of the Athenians, 
or to many another chapter of criticism, illuminated with 
the sparkle and humorous play of an eager intellect, that 
seemed utterly at home in the atmosphere of Greek joy- 

Professor Morris was not permitted to complete his 
Thucydides, nor am I aware what became of his material. 
Marie de France has, we would gladly believe, been more 
fortunate in her latest literary executor, even though she 
survived him, and although, since her resuscitation in our 
midst, she has led an existence as aloof from this Associ- 
ation, "in shady cloister mewed," as did ever the original 
Prioress herself. True to this re-incarnated character, 
she is even now vexing the world with the question 
whether she was a scion of royalty, and, like Chaucer's 
Prioress, "that of hire smylyng was ful symple and coy," 
continues to elude the literary quest as to the secret of 
her graceful but evanescent personality. 

Be it as it may with the direct results of Professor 
Elliott's work on this subject — not since the year 1892 did 
he appear with a paper on Marie de France — the com- 
pact and continuous organization of his seminary present 
and past, adequately indoctrinated as it is with his 
methods and purposes, offers the best possible guarantee 
that his labors on this theme of bewildering range and 
exacting detail will not be permanently lost. 

I have spoken of Professor Morris, the classicist, and 
now, after twenty-five years, as the very next has followed 
Professor Elliott, the romanticist; for Minton Warren I 


do not reckon, much as we mourned when to him in his 
new academic home came 

"The blind Fury with the abhorred shears, 
And slit the thin-spun life." 

This perspective of a quarter of a century of united, 
unarrested endeavor in a circle till but just now unbro- 
ken, and, in especial, this union of the names classicist 
and romanticist, recalls an obligation, which I assume 
the responsibility of discharging, in Professor Elliott's 
name and in behalf of the Modern Language group. The 
war cries of Kealgymnasium and Classics, which filled 
the air a quarter of a century ago, had their purpose and 
their reason. Professor Elliott's earlier articles were at 
times passionately anti-classical, vexed as he was at the 
ancillary position to which Modem Language studies 
seemed at that time permanently condemned in American 
universities. But there was one eminent representative 
of the earlier forms of training, and he our most unspar- 
ing critic, at whom these shafts were rarely, if ever, 
aimed — the permanent director of this Association. And 
that with good reason; for when the noise of strife died 
away it became more and more evident that, when Modem 
Language study was lifted from the font in this Univer- 
sity, it was Professor Gildersleeve who received it, and 
who was the first to acknowledge it as a proper though 
not uniformly prepossessing child, of no mean origin. 

The contrast between the then and the now reminds us 
that, while we talk of children, the group of Romance 
studies is mourning the loss of a fatherly friend. This 
feeling of filial relationship, which so many of his former 
students, while commemorating the influence of their 
teacher, have paused to dwell upon, suggests to those out- 
side that group of studies a renewed examination of the 
papers we have been considering, for light on such an im- 
pressive phenomenon. Professor Elliott's eight years of 


foreign training for his work had given him an extraordi- 
nary range. He touched the interior life of modem na- 
tions and languages at many points, where other men 
were slowly electrifying themselves through a long cir- 
cuit. His first years in the University, and also his first 
papers before this Association, show him endeavoring to 
state his relationship to certain groups of studies, pre- 
paratory to resigning them. He gave up, or allowed to 
lapse, linguistic and scientific material that would have 
sufficed for the academic furnishing of more than one 
teacher of no mean pretensions. But this process of 
resignation, as by a sort of compensation, left him with 
extraordinarily acute perceptions, heightened esthetic ap- 
preciations, and a very wide range of intellectual sympa- 
thies. Of these qualities his students received, directly 
or indirectly, the benefit, and sometimes the first inter- 
view with him decided for them the course of a lifetime. 
In conditions of society such as prevailed in parts of this 
country during the generation now passing, where aca- 
demic preparation, even in the case of men of native force, 
was necessarily unequal and often blurred into complete 
indistinctness, the possession of such qualities in such a 
degree on the part of a university instructor cannot be too 
highly estimated. And when to this ability to awaken is 
added a strong directive force and a fully conscious pur- 
pose as to what constitutes definite scientific attainment 
in himself and his students, such as Professor Elliott 
evinced in a high degree in his seminary work, and even 
in the all too infrequent later papers read before this 
Association, we must all acknowledge that he plucked the 
fair flower success in the face of wasting disease and un- 
completed labors. His own work will largely disappear, 
but to reappear in varied forms and increasing force in 
the hands of those on whose formation and upbuilding he 
spent his will and his strength ; and that is the fate which 
he himself, if not deliberately, at least consciously and 


with a certain touching and yet proud resignation, elected 
as his own. 

In this sense I present him, in affectionate memory, to 
the Society, and recommend that in place of a formal 
resolution our secretary be instructed to spread upon the 
minutes a brief memorial of our love and gratitude, and 
of our lasting remembrance of this our departed associate. 

Professor Griffin 

[Address at the funeral services, November 11, 1910] 

This is not the proper time to attempt an estimate of 
the work, or an appreciation of the character, of him who 
has gone. But as we are assembled here, a company of 
his friends, it may be well that a few simple words should 
be spoken as an expression of our affection and our sor- 

Our friend was of so kindly and generous a nature that 
those who knew him only casually were impressed by his 
responsiveness and courtesy. Those who knew him well 
understood that these attractive qualities were not super- 
ficial, but were the utterance of what was deepest and 
most genuine in him. 

Those who came closest to him in the relation, for ex- 
ample, of teacher and pupil, knew him as singularly self- 
sacrificing and devoted, sparing no pains to promote the 
welfare and advance the interests of those thus associ- 
ated with him. His remembrance of his former students 
was like the interest that a father takes in his absent 
sons. The peculiarly helpful and affectionate relation in 
which Professor Elliott stood to his students was mani- 
fest in the trying days of his prolonged illness. From 
all parts of the country there were messages of friendship 
and sympathy. Many who had known him here were 
deeply concerned to know what prospect there might be 


of his recovery. It was an ideal instance of the relation- 
ship of teacher and pupil. 

One is fortunate whose work in life is connected with 
some institution, whether educational or other. One 
whose work is of a more personal and private character 
seems hardly to leave anything obvious or tangible when 
he passes out of life. The results of his efforts seem to 
be dissipated and scattered; it can hardly be said where 
they are. But the work of a man who devotes his life to 
an institution definitely established in society remains. 
It blends with the work of other men, helping to make an 
aggregate or body of tradition and sentiment which is 
projected into the future, and lives after he is gone. 

Those who have known Professor Elliott in his relation 
to the Johns Hopkins University will well understand 
that he has so far built his life into the structure of the 
institution that for long years to come he will be remem- 
bered, and the influences which he has set in motion will 
be perpetuated. 

One is fortunate, also, whose work lies, as his work lay, 
with persons rather than with things. If there is aught 
enduring, it is personality. The world is at bottom spir- 
itual; it does not exist primarily in its visible and tan- 
gible forms. You may not seek what is permanent in it 
in the majesty of nature or in the most consummate prod- 
ucts of the finest civilization ; but you will find its final 
reality, its ultimate meaning and value, in that which 
transcends all these and survives them — the human spirit. 

When a man touches the springs of human character 
and helps to bring his fellow-being into a higher region of 
life, and to inspire him with new ideals, better standards 
and nobler aspirations, he accomplishes results which do 
not perish with the body, but which shall remain whrai 
the earth and the heavens have passed away. 

The long months of illness served to bring out the 
nobility and strength of our friend's nature as nothing 
else could have done. It was difficult to find out from 


him how ill he was. One might be there every day and 
yet not see or hear the querulousness or complaints of the 
invalid. It was really hard to ascertain, even by ques- 
tioning him, whether he might be better or worse. In 
part this reticence was due to courtesy. He would not 
impose on others an unnecessary pain; he chose to talk 
of cheerful rather than of depressing things. But this 
was also the self-control of a strong and manly nature, 
of one who felt able to bear the fortunes of life as they 
were apportioned to him, of one who would not shrink 
and falter even in the extremity of trial. 

The composure of spirit with which he faced the inev- 
itable, the self-command which kept him uncomplaining, 
and enabled him to the very last to think of others rather 
than of himself, were absolutely heroic. It was an un- 
usual demonstration of the power of spirit over the infirm- 
ities of the flesh. 

Our friend did not talk easily of the deeper things of 
his experience, or express himself freely in reference to 
those higher concerns with which men's thoughts are en- 
gaged, yet I know that he was supported by a devout and 
reverent faith. 

We have here a great example; an example of the devo- 
tion of a teacher to his pupils; of unselfish consecration 
to the work of life; of extraordinary self-command under 
prolonged and painful trial — an example of one who was 
master of himself and of his fate. This example will not 
be lost on those who have known him. 

And so we say farewell to one who has lived well his 
life, and who, having served his generation by the will of 
God, has fallen on sleep. 


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