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r ' — N 




ir. Thomas E. Kneeland 
99 Wildwood Street 
nchester, Massachusetts 

Digitized by the internet Archive 

in 2007 with funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



About 1894 






Printed at the Riverside Press 

















This biographical sketch has been written 
with a particular audience in mind, an audi- 
ence wholly made up of people who knew De- 
witt Miller and liked him. It is designedly 
personal and anecdotal, and will be best read 
in the spirit in which one would read a letter. 
Doubtless the letter is too long drawn out, but 
it was not possible with the material at com- 
mand to make it brief. Only by rigid compres- 
sion has it been brought within the present 

The facts concerning Miller's boyhood and 
school-days have been mostly supplied by his 
sister, Mrs. Webb, and by Doctor King, his 
former principal at Fort Edward Institute. A 
scrap-book filled with newspaper clippings, 
some of them very amusing, throws plenty of 
light on the period between 1876 and 1885. A 
few notes, made at the time the half-veiled 


portrait of Miller as *The Bibliotaph' was 
sketched, have been drawn on. For all else the 
writer has depended on his memory, and can- 
not be grateful enough to the friends who have 
jogged that memory from time to time. 

This remarkable collector of books was the 
only son of Jahu and Phebe (Sejnnour) Miller, 
of Westchester County, New York. His father 
was a farmer, and had been at one time a black- 
smith. Miller was born on March 1, 1857, at 
the little village of Gross River, four and a half 
miles from Katonah, and was christened Jahu 

The first of his two given names often struck 
people as being exceedingly odd. They could 
understand how a man might be called Jehu 
but Jahu passed their comprehension. Miller's 
signature was as legible as are most signatures, 
but hotel-clerks and telegraph-operators in- 
sisted on writing him down as *John.' He 
figures as John Dewitt Miller in at least one 
edition of Who '5 Who in America. Convinced 



finally that there was no hope of teaching a 
certain part of the public (a part with whom he 
was in daily touch) to master so simple yet so 
unusual a name, and acting on the advice of a 
friend, he began to sign himself Dewitt Miller. 
After that the occasions were rare on which he 
found his name misprinted. 

But to his intimates, and to some who were 
not, he was never known by any other name 
than Jahu. If through inadvertence we called 
him Dewitt to his face, he always gave an 
ironical *Ha! Ha!' which meant that, while he 
did not consider himself to be putting on airs 
in signing himself thus, we were in not using 
the old-fashioned name that we knew he pre- 

Like other country boys he went to the dis- 
trict school, and in 1871, at the age of fourteen 
and a half, entered the Collegiate Institute at 
Fort Edward, New York, was graduated in the 
college preparatory course and became at once 
a member of the faculty. One of his note- 


books shows that he taught classes in arithme- 
tic, test spelling, grammar, beginners' Latin, 
Cicero, logic, and English Uterature; in other 
words, and as a famous humorist said of his 
own pedagogical experience, he held not a 
'chair' but a 'settee.' He also acted as libra- 
rian and was reputed to have devoured the 
contents of the school-collection. Knowing his 
skill in getting at the heart of any book that 
struck his fancy, one can understand how 
the remark might be in a sense perfectly 

Doctor King describes Miller at the age of 
seventeen as 'a broad-shouldered youth, his 
*big head covered with abundant coarse brown 
* hair, which reminded one of the portraits of 
'Andrew Jackson.' He also speaks of the 
'grimy white overcoat' which the young man 
affected, a garment much too big for him and 
which he doubtless wore as the outward sym- 
bol of an unswerving loyalty to the New York 
journalist he most admired. At what time the 


white beaver hat was added to his wardrobe is 
not known. 

It is probable that he was active in debating 
societies at Fort Edward, and conspicuous for 
his skill and force in declamation. He had even 
then a vocabulary which always astonished and 
often diverted those who heard him speak. He 
began to correspond for newspapers, and some- 
times embroiled himself in disputes with edi- 
tors and others, being a positive and somewhat 
contentious young gentleman, much addicted 
to emphatic language. 

His first lecture was given *at a Grange pic- 
*nic at Peach Lake, in the summer of 1874.' It 
was *a great success.' One never thinks of an 
audience of farmers and their wives as the 
easiest in the world to hold, and that Miller 
could hold them at the tender age of seventeen 
is, perhaps, a fact worth noting. About the 
same time he preached his first sermon in the 
little Methodist Church at Cross River, and 
was looking on the ministry as his vocation. 


It is not difficult to see how this came about. 
Brought up in a denomination which insists on 
having ministers who can speak fluently and 
forcibly, a youth with the oratorical gift might 
conclude with perfect sincerity that he had in 
addition to this all other important gifts. 

At one time in his life he inclined strongly 
towards journalism. Horace Greeley was one 
of his idols. There is a story (probably apocry- 
phal) that when a mere boy he accompanied 
Greeley on one of his shorter lecturing tours 
for the honor of carrying the great man's valise. 
He certainly did a great deal of newspaper 
work after leaving Fort Edward, but always 
as a free lance. To the weeklies he contributed 
such papers as 'A Day at Concord,' published 
in the 'Christian Union,' and his 'Reminis- 
*cences of William Cullen Bryant' which ap- 
peared in the 'Independent.' He led rather 
an unsettled existence for three or four years, 
as an occasional lecturer, a stump-speaker, 
a journalist, and even a man of business; he 


would sometimes describe with much humor 
his brief career as a shipping-clerk with a large 
mercantile house in New York City. That he 
ever caused his parents real anxiety no one 
who knew Miller can believe ; that at this period 
of his history he kept them in a state of chronic 
astonishment no one who knew him can doubt. 
In the fall of 1880 he went back to school 
work. An early lecture-list describes him as 
'Professor of History and Mental Philosophy* 
at Pennington Seminary, Pennington, New 
Jersey; at the bottom of the circular are the 
words * terms liberal.' He was drifting little 
by little towards the mode of life for which his 
wayward genius best fitted him, and he had 
already discovered that one must get one's 
wares before the public somehow, by means of 
liberal terms if it could be done in no other 
way. Many articles, relating for the most part 
to school happenings, were contributed by him 
to Trenton newspapers, and all carefully writ- 
ten. He acted as librarian at the Seminary, 


and his taste is distinctly shown in the list of 
magazines and journals that were provided for 
the reading-room. 

For some months he preached in the Warren 
Street Church in Trenton, and packed the 
little building to the doors with listeners eager 
to hear him on any topic, and especially curi- 
ous about his sermons on the amusement ques- 
tion. His un-Methodistical attitude might well 
have created an excitement. Not a few hard 
names were hurled at him. People also wrote 
to the newspapers attacking him on account of 
the style of his garments. Even if these critics 
were displeased with many features of his dress 
they might at least have been placated to some 
little extent by the sumptuous black velvet 
waistcoat of clerical cut in which he appears in 
one of his photographs. It was Miller's fate 
always to keep his little world in a state of un- 
rest because he did not 'dress like other men.* 
He could not have been a conformist even had 
he been so minded. 



His name appears among the list of Trenton 
ministers who were invited to open the sessions 
of the State Legislature with prayer. At an 
election in November, 1882, he served hot cof- 
fee to the voters of one precinct, but not in 
person. His placard commending the drink as 
a substitute for what is commonly drunk on 
election days, was characteristic. 'You won't 
' have to be taken home by a policeman, and 
* won't be ashamed to see your wife,' is a typical 
sentence. Miller paid for five hundred cups of 
coffee that day, and a proportionate amount 
of 'good rich cream.' Voters from neighbor- 
ing precincts found it convenient to visit his 

From Trenton he went to Saint James's 
Methodist Episcopal Church, New Brunswick, 
and thence, for about one year, to the Emman- 
uel Reformed Episcopal Church in Kensing- 
ton, Philadelphia. By that time (the spring of 
1885) the demand for his lectures had become 
so marked as to justify him in leaving the pul- 


pit for the platform. He did well to make the 
change, and to make it before he had grown 
inured to what is commonly called a 'regular' 
mode of life. Now he could exhort the public 
in his own way, on his own themes, and with- 
out giving offence. It was once said of him 
that he always lectured when he preached, and 
preached when he lectured. The characteriza- 
tion is not entirely amiss. 

He gave his business to a bureau called the 
* Bryant Literary Union,' probably at the in- 
stance of his friend Mr. Wallace Bruce, whom 
one remembers as sounding Miller's praises in 
the most cordial fashion. He was under the 
Slayton management for a while, and for many 
years with the Reverend S. B. Hershey and his 
coadjutors, Mr. Stout and Mr. Pelham. One 
heard of him at Teachers' Institutes and else- 
where, and met him at the various Chautau- 
qua assemblies throughout the Middle West. 
Many tales circulated among the fraternity 
concerning his oddities of dress and manner, 


his wit, his inimitable story-telling, his un- 
quenchable spirits, and his generous ways. 

When asked whether he lived in Philadel- 
phia, Miller would reply, * I live there as much 
as I live anywhere.' His menage was extremely 
simple, consisting as it did of a membership in 
the Union League Club, a lock-box at the post- 
office with some one to look after the contents, 
and a cedar-chest at his tailor's. He became 
a member of *The Players,' in New York, in 
1892, and the few who knew him there also 
knew how devoted he was to the interests of 
that attractive club. Some other affiliations 
he had, but they were with book-publishing 
clubs, bibliographical societies, and the like. 

His library — with the exception of so much 
of it as had accompanied him in his progress 
from Pennington to Philadelphia — was at the 
farm-house at Cross River. After his mother's 
death the books journeyed to Carmel, in Put- 
nam County, where a country store was hired 
for their accommodation and the door-key 



handed over to his sister. With his library- 
sixty miles north of New York, his wardrobe in 
Philadelphia, and himself in the West, Miller 
might have described himself as being widely 
scattered. He felt no inconvenience and would 
have started at an hour's notice for New Zea- 
land or Australia. He often talked of a lecture- 
tour in those countries and the wonder is that 
he did not go, so strong was his lust of travel. 
In a word, he rejoiced in his freedom, was 
stimulated by the audiences that he faced 
nightly, and found his speeches growing better 
and better with every repetition. 


He gave what are called * popular lectures.' 
They were entitled 'The Uses of Ugliness,' 
*The Stranger at Our Gates,' 'Our Country's 

* Possibilities and Perils,' 'The Self-Sufficiency 
*of the Republic,' and 'The Reveries of a 

* Bachelor.' The last of the five is the one that 
formerly went under the name of 'Love, Court- 

* ship, and Marriage,' and a very amusing dis- 
course it was, call it how he would. He had 
other speeches besides these, but his reputation 
as a lecturer mainly rests on the group of five, 
all characteristic examples of his art. 

There are lectures (on a variety of topics) 
which are popular, and there are also 'popular 
lectures.' Bureau-managers and committees 
attach a particular meaning to the latter 
phrase; it means a lecture of a distinct sort. 

One would not wish to be understood as 
speaking lightly of the 'popular lecture.' It has 
[ 13 ] 


many and great virtues. The ingenuity often 
shown in its construction and the surprising 
effectiveness of the deUvery are wholly admir- 
able. But one may be allowed to note the 
strong family resemblance that obtains among 
these discourses, various as are their titles and 
their substance. Every 'popular lecture' is 
first cousin to every other 'popular lecture.' 

These addresses abound in anecdote and 
flights of rhetoric. They always contain a mix- 
ture of the pathetic and the humorous, with 
bold and unexpected transitions from the one 
to the other. Always intensely patriotic in 
tone, not to say jingoish, their effect is to bring 
home with irresistible force to the hearer — 
who may have forgotten it for the moment — 
the great truth that he is indeed a citizen of a 
great country; he thanks Heaven that he was 
born an American, and his heart overflows 
with sympathy for dwellers in benighted re- 
gions of the earth like England, France, and 
Germany. A strong appeal is made to the audi- 
[ 14 ] 


ence on the side of the domestic affections, 
more or less in the style of Mr. Barnes New- 
come, and there still remain parts of the United 
States where it is quite safe for the lecturer to 
announce that woman's true sphere is in the 

When theological matters are touched on 
there is a not too pronounced leaning towards 
old-fashioned orthodoxy. The speaker believes 
in temperance, the flag, the public schools, 
freedom of the press, and freedom of the bal- 
lot. There are also many things in which he 
does not believe. He is opposed, for instance, 
to allowing American girls to marry foreign 
noblemen. His hearers are with hun on this 
vital question. That dukes, marquises, and 
viscounts should come over here in droves 
every spring to carry off our daughters — and 
that they do so is notorious — is an evil under 
the sun; the mere thought of it is not to be 
patiently borne by any self-respecting lyceum 
audience in the country. 
[ 15] 


Unjustly superficial as is the above descrip- 
tion of the 'popular lecture,' it is correct in 
that it indicates a few of the points which an 
exhaustive analysis would be certain to bring 
out. One has long since learned not to look for 
originality in the substance of these discourses, 
but to enjoy the men who give the lectures, 
and to admire in particular their mastery of 
the art of speaking. 

Miller was one of the best of his tribe, but 
he never pretended to be an original thinker. 
He would have laughed at the misguided friend 
who should attempt seriously to make him out 
anything of the sort. He was an original man, 
a character, and could not utter a common- 
place in a commonplace way. And that he was 
also a born orator admits of no question. It 
was a pleasure to him to face an audience. 
He spoke easily and well, and his thought 
always took the oratorical rather than the 
literary form. He liked to make use of anti- 
thesis, to invent daring figures of speech, to 
[ 16] 


indulge in broad and humorous exaggeration, 
to pile up cloud-capped towers of brilliant 

His work never became stale and mechanical. 
A lecture might be given two hundred times 
and not be given twice alike. The frame-work 
remained unchanged and many anecdotes per- 
sisted, all else was in a state of continual fluc- 
tuation. No man lived more intensely in the 
Present than did he, and his oldest speeches 
showed that he was perfectly cognizant of what 
had happened in the round world within the 
last twenty-four hours. There were times when 
he created the illusion of having prepared the 
lecture for the particular audience he saw 
before him. 

He disliked to make new lectures. With him 
as with many men the making of a lecture was 
a deliberate process, one that took time, as well 
as brains; the successful speech cannot be 
tossed off in an afternoon. And having raised 
a crop of six or seven effective speeches Miller 
[ 17] 


was content with the fruits of his husbandry, 
and made no further effort. 

For years he had in mind the preparing of a 
course on the great American orators. He col- 
lected a vast amount of material pertinent to 
the subject, so much in fact that he was rather 
appalled when he contemplated it in bulk. ' I 
* shall write the lectures out in full,' he said, 
'and read them at first.' We who knew him 
well doubted his ability to solve the problem 
by that method. All his speeches were out- 
lined and elaborated in his head, without once 
putting pen to paper. He would have been ill 
at ease with a manuscript before him. 

Though no grain of vanity entered into his 
composition he was self-possessed in the high- 
est degree when he faced an audience. One 
cannot think of him as embarrassed or discon- 
certed. All his powers were always at his com- 
mand. He would have made an admirable 

His readiness to turn to good account the 
[ 18] 


petty annoyances that befall a public speaker 
was proverbial. Unless this illustration of 
Miller's wit be confounded in my memory 
with a similar one it was about as follows : He 
was lecturing in a small town in Michigan. As 
he made some violent movement of the body 
a button burst from his waistcoat, flew to the 
edge of the platform, and bounding off de- 
scribed another curve to the floor. The light- 
minded who saw the button go laughed out, as 
the light-minded, and some who are not, al- 
ways will. Miller instantly begged the people 
on the front benches not to be alarmed, as 
there was ' no dangerwhatever of further disin- 
tegration.' The effect of the remark being to 
make them laugh yet more, and with reason, he 
added pleasantly that he was 'gratified to find 
that if he could not entertain them in one way 
he certainly could in another.' 

Among the best of his gifts was his voice. It 
was strong, rich, and flexible. He often mis- 
used it, and was sure to do so when he became 


impassioned. If criticised for this he would say 
good-humoredly, *Well, I made them hear at 
any rate.' And so he did. Many a time have I 
heard him bellow as if he were trying to reach 
the farmers in the next county. 

He had an expressive mouth, and when his 
face was in repose the mouth was one of its 
most attractive features. Let him, however, 
become markedly earnest in speech and he 
would straightway begin to twist his lips into 
wonderful shapes. Whoever has heard him 
speak will recall his way of drawing the mouth 
up at one side and apparently speaking from 
that side. He gave his friends no little pleasure 
by stoutly denying that he did such a thing. 

Having made no study of the art of stage- 
presence he held himself as he would, and 
waved his arms in the way that Nature taught 
him. No one was better aware of his oddities 
than himself. Once when he was speaking in a 
tent on an extremely hot day, and his manner 
of flapping the air caused some little merri- 


ment, he convulsed the audience by exclaim- 
ing, 'Some of my gestures are for emphasis, 
and some for flies.' 

Many people addressed him as 'Doctor,' in 
our easy American fashion, though he held no 
academic degree of any sort. At the South he 
was often announced as the Honorable Dewitt 
Miller, LL.D. Much as he disliked this sort of 
thing he wasted no time in fretting over it; he 
knew the slip-shod habits of his fellow-country- 
men, and their serene indifference to the truth 
(North and South alike) when advertising was 
in question. 

Let them call him Doctor or Professor, or 
what they would, he was outwardly as indif- 
ferent to these appellations as a Newfound- 
land dog might have been. In private he gave 
vent to his real feelings through a series of 
ingenious and ironical comments. Few pla- 
cards tickled him more than the one in which 
he was heralded to an admiring Western audi- 
ence as 'Author, Philosopher, and Bibliopa/Zz.' 
[21 ] 


Against the use of one advertising phrase 
he always protested — he had an aversion to 
being called a humorous lecturer. 'They put 
me at a great disadvantage by that sort of 
announcement,' he would say. 'I am not a 
humorous lecturer. Things present themselves 
to me in a certain light. I state them as I see 
them. For some reason or other people laugh. 
But — I — am — not — a — humorous — 

His entire freedom from the instinct for self- 
advertising did not prevent his enjoying pri- 
vately manifestations of the instinct in others. 
He sought long and diligently for copies of a 
circular, on the front page of which was dis- 
played a large picture of the gentleman whose 
wares were thus presented to the public, and 
around it little pictures of the world's greatest 
orators. And when, walking on a station-plat- 
form, he caught sight of a trunk belonging to 
one of his colleagues, with the lecturer's name 
on it in big white letters, and LL.D. after the 


name, in letters equally big and white, Miller's 
face with its varying expressions was indeed a 
study; he said nothing, merely looked more 
good things than he could possibly have ut- 

He was not often seen at the performances of 
his brother lecturers, believing in self-denial 
with respect to strong mental pleasures. He 
would go once, sometimes twice, rarely oftener. 
* As much as may be ought we to be spared the 
fearful joy of hearing one another,' he would 

Seeing him buy a ticket for an entertain- 
ment to be given by one of his intimates I 
said, wonderingly, *Do you pay him for the 

To which Miller replied, * I pay him if I go — 
the first time; he pays me if I go the second.' 

Having heard all the best men in his profes- 
sion, and not a few of the worst, and being pos- 
sessed of excellent judgment in these matters, 
he was able to show wherein lay the secret of a 


success, and what was the cause of a compara- 
tive failure. No one gave praise, where praise 
was due, in a franker spirit, but he preferred to 
speak well of a man behind his back. 

What were Miller's earnings by his lectures 
it were difficult to say; I doubt whether he 
knew himself. They should have been quite 
enough for his way of life. His fees were not of 
the largest, and he was undoubtedly worth 
more, as a lyceum 'attraction,' than he com- 
monly received. To him attaches in part the 
blame for any disappointment he may have 
felt; from the very beginning he underesti- 
mated the commercial value of his work. 

It is safe to say that he enjoyed every feature 
of his life. The long railway rides were never 
wearisome to him nor the hotels odious. He 
was always imperturbable and good-humored. 
It was a barren town that did not afford some 
diversion in the way of book-hunting, and he 
had the gift of making friends wherever he 
went. He lectured with zest, hurried back to 


his room to change his clothes (he was always 
dripping with perspiration after an hour-and- 
a-half's speech), and was then ready for supper 
and a talk until two o'clock in the morning. 


Because of his striking appearance he 
awakened no little curiosity as he went from 
place to place. He was often taken for a 
clergyman, as indeed he was, sometimes for a 
country doctor, not infrequently for a politi- 
cian. Men have approached him, smiling, 
with an air of certainty in the tone with which 
they put the query of * Doctor Talmage, I be- 
lieve?' More than once he was addressed as 
the habitual Democratic presidential candi- 
date, whom, by the way, he did not in the least 

There was that in his face and bearing which 
gave the impression of his being a man accus- 
tomed to sit in legislative halls, and to talk 
learnedly on reciprocity and the tariff. I have 
seen people point him out to one another and 
stare after him as he ambled along F Street, 
in Washington. They were sure that he must 
[26 1 





that moment have come from the Capitol, and 
be now on his way home to meditate great 
speeches for the salvation (or the ruin) of the 
country. They would have been disappointed 
to learn that he was just in from the suburbs, 
and was hurrying to Lowdermilk's book-store 
on no more serious errand than the buying of a 
first edition of Beckford's Vathek. 

We liked to address him now and then as 
Senator Sorghum, and inquire respectfully as 
to the state of political feeling *up to Coscob.' 
He always replied in the character assigned 
him and never failed to turn the tables on the 
interlocutor. Indeed it was not worth one's 
while to undertake to badger him unless one 
was prepared to undergo a capital mauling in 
return. One did not always get it, but that was 
merely because he was not in the mood. 

Miller thought, in the light of the mistakes 

that were made, and the resemblances that 

were fancifully traced, that he must have *a 

Protean physiognomy.' The regular inquiry 



met him when he returned from a long journey, 
*Whom have you been taken for this trip?' 

Two or three winters ago he boarded a Pull- 
man and settled himself in his seat. Across 
the aisle sat a gentleman and lady; with them 
was a little girl. The child stared at the new- 
comer with an air of profound and respectful 
interest. Presently she whispered something 
to her father who, smiling, shook his head. In 
a moment or two the gentleman came over to 
Miller, and begging his pardon for disturbing 
him said, 'I think you may be interested to 
know that my little daughter has just asked me 
if you were George Washington.' 

One would like to know what was our friend's 
comment; it is certain to have been witty. 

Miller was much diverted by the efforts of 
men with whom he came in occasional contact 
— clerks, porters, barbers, waiters, and the 
like — to learn something about him. They 
were sure that he was a personage merely from 
his looks, and that he was also one of the right 


sort they were firmly convinced from his friend- 
liness of manner and the generous estimate he 
put on their services. He was content, how- 
ever, to let them guess. 

There was a certain barber, an Anglo-Ger- 
man, most polite and very precise of speech, 
to whose shop Miller resorted at intervals. 
On the occasion of the fourth or fifth visit the 
barber approached the subject nearest his 
heart in this way : 

Barber: 'You are an Englishman?' 

Miller: 'No.' 

Barber (in a tone of great surprise) : 'Not an 

Miller: *No.' 

Barber (evidently much disappointed): *I al- 
ways thought that you were an Englishman.' 

Miller: *No.' 

Barber (very apologetically): *Then I with- 
draw my thoughts.' 

Of quite another sort was his conversational 
encounter with a plain citizen somewhere out 


in Kansas. He was waiting for his train on the 
station platform, bareheaded as usual. The 
plain citizen eyed him for a while, and then 
slouched up to put this question: 'Are you a 

*No,' said Miller, *why did you ask?' 
'Because,' responded the other, with much 
deliberation, 'you look exactly like a French 
cook that used to live down our way, and when 
I first saw you I thought you was him.' After 
a moment's pause the plain citizen added 
meditatively, 'He was the meanest man I ever 

Miller held firm opinions as to how a trav- 
eller should conduct himself towards the ser- 
vants of a railway company, especially those 
who were in no position to resent a liberty. 
His idea of the complete boor was a loud- 
mouthed man who hails every sleeping-car por- 
ter as ' George.' He maintained that the fellow 
had no more right to call the porter 'George' 
than he had to call him 'Zerubbabel.' His own 


attitude was always that of perfect considera- 

Waiters at the restaurants which Miller 
frequented knew him for a brother man and 
were glad to serve him. He entertained large 
views on the subject of tips. Before the meal 
was half eaten one might expect to hear him 
say, *Now what shall we give the waiter? He 's 
been extremely nice to us. Don't you think 

He always made a wonderful show of being 
just in the matter of tips, maintaining that one 
should give what was right and no more. Yet I 
cannot recall the time when his estimate of 
what was right did not greatly exceed my own. 
His theory of the tip might have been expressed 
by the formula 'ten per cent on the cost of the 
meal,' but in practice he made it twenty and 
twenty-five per cent. 

Miller sometimes astonished the chance 
observer by certain eccentricities of dress. 
When he bought a new hat he would insist on 


its being punctured with numerous fine holes. 
By taking this precaution, and adding thereto 
the more effective one of carrying the hat in his 
hand, he contrived to get the amount of air he 
needed for his scalp's health. At one time he 
owned a soft brown felt hat, in the centre of 
which he had carved a hole the size of a silver 
dollar. At some hotel where he was stopping 
for a night he deposited it on the rack outside 
the dining-room and went in to his supper. 
When he came out and looked for his hat he 
found that a circular piece of white paper had 
been neatly glued over the orifice. He learned 
afterward that the clerk of the hotel had been 
the instigator of this bit of playfulness. Mil- 
ler's letter to the proprietor apropos of the in- 
dignity was a little masterpiece. He quoted it 
to me in full, and now I regret not having taken 
a copy of it. 

Whether it did any good may well be doubted. 
The striking though not always legible hand- 
writing, the many abbreviations, and the clev- 


erly involved sentences would not fit the doc- 
ument for carrying light into the dark places 
of a small-hotel proprietor's mind. We used to 
tell Miller that when he wished to administer 
a rebuke he should do it by word of mouth, 
never in writing. 

While Miller seldom wore a hat and did not 
always carry one, he might be seen in city 
thoroughfares with appropriate head-gear con- 
ventionally placed. He had an immense head 
and a wealth of hair, and as he always bought 
his hats by the *size,' paying little heed to the 
height of the crown or the width of the brim, 
many of them looked too small for their wearer. 
Whereby a wag was led to say to me, *Why 
does your eccentric friend wear that button 
on the top of his head?' I explained that the 
object in question was a hat. *0h, really!' 
exclaimed the wag; *I am very glad to learn 
that. I saw him at a distance in Copley Square 
and I supposed that he was wearing a button.' 

Miller resented the remark at first, not on 


his own account but because it belittled the 
hat. Then he accepted it in his humorous and 
philosophical manner, and when we were leav- 
ing the hotel he said, with a smile, as he picked 
up the abused article, * I '11 wear my Lindsay- 
Swift button.' 

A man who speaks sik nights a week for 
forty consecutive weeks, often travelling two 
and three hundred miles between each pair of 
lectures, gets in the way of underestimating 
the importance of his relation to a particular 
audience. He is a little astonished to find that 
they really care to hear him, and he cannot 
quite see why they should be greatly disturbed 
if he fail to make his appearance. Miller pre- 
ferred always to keep his engagements, but it 
has been remarked that he was singularly 
placid when he missed one. 

He took all sorts of risks. The last train 

that would bring him to his appointment in 

time was the train for him. Six or seven years 

ago he had an engagement to speak at Mays- 



ville, Kentucky. The committee wrote him 
urging the importance of his coming by the 
eariier of two afternoon trains from Cincinnati. 
He put the letter in his pocket, did the book- 
shops all day, and took the second train ac- 
cording to his habit. He was due in Maysville 
at five minutes past eight and arrived there at 
twenty minutes of nine. Leaving his bag at the 
station he ran the whole distance to the lecture- 
hall. He was dishevelled, black with car-soot, 
and wet with perspiration. A lady who was 
present told me that *he could hardly have 
looked worse had he driven the locomotive 
down from Cincinnati.' 

The audience resented having had to wait 
forty-five minutes, and resented even more the 
state in which he presented himself. But Miller 
proved to be as eloquent as he was certainly 
travel-stained. By the time he had uttered a 
dozen sentences his hearers forgot their griefs. 
They were captivated by him. When he fin- 
ished talking they crowded around the plat- 


form to shake his hand, an attention 'a' could 
never abide,' and the committee refused to let 
him leave the hall until he had fixed approxi- 
mately a date for a second lecture that same 

A prospect of ten consecutive months at 
hotels, with only a few intervals of home life, is 
dreary at the best. Miller was one of those 
even-tempered travellers who know how to 
make the best of the worst surroundings. A 
room looked habitable almost from the mo- 
ment of his taking possession. No matter how 
angular the furniture, how repulsive the wall- 
paper, how barren the outlook from the win- 
dows, all became transfigured in the light of 
his genial presence. A row of books was set up 
on the mantelpiece, the table was covered with 
magazines, book-catalogues, and newspapers, 
and an air of comfort and orderly disorder 
reigned at once. 

Miller had his favorite camping-out places 
when on the road, and clung to them as he 


clung to other old friends. He must have fre- 
quented the Hotel Grace in Chicago for not 
less than twenty-five years. When in Phila- 
delphia he used formerly to go to Zeiss*s, in 
Walnut Street. Later he transferred his affec- 
tions to the Little Hotel Wilmot, in South 
Penn Square. The quaint old-world air of this 
minute hostelry attracted him, and he never 
tired of the swinging sign over the door. * Don't 
you like it? Don't you like it?' he would say, 
pointing upward. The location, quite near to 
his club and even nearer the railway station, 
was a convenient one for him. 

Almost from boyhood he had put up at the 
Grand Union Hotel in New York, taking great 
satisfaction in its labyrinthine passages and 
the cozy grill-room with the framed prints and 
programs. It was chiefly sentiment, I think, 
that led him to take up quarters at the Claren- 
don, near Union Square. That was the hotel 
where Thackeray stopped in 1853. Miller once 
asked the night-clerk whether it was known 


what room or rooms Thackeray had occupied, 
and was told that the man who was on duty in 
the day-time could probably tell him: 'He 
knows all our regular people.' 

Miller had little work in New England the 
latter part of his life. If by any chance he came 
to Boston he was sure to take a room at the 
Crawford House, and take his meals at Mar- 
ston's. Identifying the hotel in ScoUay Square 
with the Crawford's of Whittier's poem he used 
to regret that the word *inn' had not been re- 

A man who wanders as he did, from Dan to 
Beersheba, will find much to incommode him 
in the poorer caravansaries. * Every traveller 
'is a self-taught entomologist,' said Oliver 
Wendell Hohnes. When forced to put up with 
ill-kept quarters Miller said nothing, but re- 
joiced in the consciousness of being a pilgrim 
and a stranger who could tarry but a night. 
Going to his room once at some large and old 
hotel, the name of which I have (purposely) 


forgotten, I was struck with the air of neglect 
that hung over the place. 

* Don't the cockroaches run, Jahu, when you 
open your door to go in?' I asked. 

*Run?' he exclaimed, cheerfully; *far from 
it. They stand and wave to me.' 

Philosopher though he was, his thoughts 
must have turned, in surroundings like these, 
to certain homes where everything a man could 
ask in the way of perfect physical surroundings 
and unstinted hospitality awaited him. 


Miller looked on books as something to be 
acquired, just as he looked on dollars as some- 
thing to be got rid of. From this clearly defined 
position he never varied a hair's breadth. 

Sane people often ask, 'What makes a man 
want to collect books? ' and to speak truth, one 
is puzzled to know how to answer them. Per- 
haps the man does not want to do as he does, 
but cannot help himself. On the whole, Miller's 
idiosyncrasy is best accounted for as the phil- 
osopher accounted for the relation between 
wedges and logs of wood. * A wedge splits logs,' 
said this acute reasoner, 'by virtue of a log- 
splitting quality in the wedge.' And similarly, 
Dewitt Miller collected books by virtue of a 
book-collecting quality in Dewitt Miller. 

He seems to have begun heaping up treasures 
in print in his youth, and to have been chiefly 
covetous of such bibliographical rarities as 


Greeley's The American Conflict, Richardson's 
The Field, the Dungeon, and the Escape, Wen- 
dell Phillips's Orations, and the Sermons (in 
any number of volumes) of Henry Ward 
Beecher. He had a great mass of anti-slavery 
and Civil War literature in his Library at 
Forest Glen, near Washington, a part of which 
certainly represents his first steps toward the 
forming of a collection of his own. He also 
yearned, in those callow days, to own complete 
files of his pet newspapers, and would even go 
to the expense of having them bound. These 
awful tomes, of portentous size and correspond- 
ing unwieldiness, were rather an annoyance to 
him in later years, but he had not the heart to 
part with them. 

At what period he became sensible of the 
charm of a book as a work of art cannot now be 
determined. It must have been a little prior to 
1888, for in that year he was collecting the 
pretty duodecimos of William Pickering and 
anything with Moxon's imprint on the title- 


page. From me he learned about John Basker- 
ville; it was the first tune I had the privilege of 
being his instructor — and also the last. Isaac 
H. Hall, of the Metropolitan Museum, had put 
me in the way of acquiring the little Horace of 
1762, a voliune which has been described as 
the *most beautiful' of all Baskerville's books. 
For a time I carried it with me on my journey- 
ings, to gloat over. Miller saw it in my posses- 
sion, plied me with questions about it, and en- 
joyed no peace of mind until he had procured 
a copy for himself. 

His enthusiasm for Baskerville grew until 
he had accumulated enough examples of the 
great Birmingham printer's art to satisfy his 
craving. It then waned a little but never en- 
tirely disappeared. He was always ready to 
talk about this prime favorite of his. A me- 
moir of Baskerville was printed at Cambridge, 
England, in 1907, and in the list of subscribers 
may be read the name of Dewitt Miller. 

When he had conceived a passion for a cer- 


tain printer (or author) our friend could not be 
prevented from snapping up every specimen 
of the man's work that came his way. This 
led to his entertaining unawares a niunber of 
rather distinguished volumes. He had picked 
up, during the period of his Baskerville craze, 
four charming little classics, a Lucretius, a 
Horace, and two others, bound in grained red 
leather. Where they came from, or what they 
cost him he was never able to tell. For years 
he lost sight of them, or lost consciousness, ra- 
ther; the smiling Uttle red books were always 
in plain sight. 

We jogged his memory about them one day. 
He asked where they were, got them down from 
their resting-place on a gallery shelf, found them 
delectable and purred over them in his custo- 
mary style. The question was then raised of 
their having been bound by Roger Payne ; it was 
only a conjecture, but there was a basis for it. 
Miller, who was always thoroughly alive, now 
began to live one hundred and twenty seconds 


to the minute. Such a scurrying among books 
of reference, such a jotting down of data, and 
piling up of proofs, and writing of letters to 
able authorities, could only be witnessed when 
our friend was on the bibliophilic war-path. 
He had not had so good a time in months. 

That the books were what they appeared to 
be he was perfectly convinced within a day 
or two. It gave him immense satisfaction to 
learn that he possessed Baskervilles bound by 
Roger Payne. * I knew that I had distinguished 
guests under my roof,' he said, beaming, 'but I 
was not aware that they were so highly con- 
nected.' Presently he added, (it was the only 
formula he permitted himself to use in com- 
mending his own collection,) *If a man were 
to take the trouble to go over these volumes 
thoroughly one by one, he might, I believe, 
discover some very interesting items.* 

This was the last of Miller's adventures 
among books. He left his Library shortly 
afterward, and never saw it again. 


* I care nothing for first editions,' he has been 
overheard to say. He meant no more than 
that he was not mad about them. The truth is 
that he had a perfectly healthy interest in 
first editions and owned a great many; he also 
liked a second edition, and a third, and even a 
twenty-third. No one has heard him say 
that he cared nothing for his first edition of 
Boswell's Johnson. When news came of the 
splendid sum fetched by Gray's Elegy at the 
Hoe sale, Miller got out his copy for inspection 
and comment. A very good copy it was, and 
cost him nearly three dollars. 

These incidents belong to a later period of 
his book-collecting and do not properly fall 
within the limits of this chapter. We are to 
think of him now as he might have appeared 
almost any time between 1887 and 1897, when 
he was mastering his subject and rifling the 
book-shops between New York and Denver of 
the good and the indifferent alike. It may be 
said once for all that when Miller bought a 


poor copy of a thing he usually had a good 
motive. Either there was a gap in the shelves 
devoted to a certain subject, which needed to 
be filled, or he knew of some one to whom the 
book in any form would be a god-send, pro- 
vided it was complete from title-page to index. 
One important qualification he had for the 
rough-and-tumble phases of book-hunting — 
he was not too dainty. For a man who spent 
so large a fraction of his time at the Turkish 
bath he was singularly indifferent to dirt, or 
rather, to the kind of dirt that accumulates on 
books. If he suspected that the treasure he 
sought might be lurking in the heap before him 
he went gaily at it with both hands. He clung 
to swaying step-ladders at a perilous height 
to get at the rows of books which your true 
second-hand dealer always keeps concealed 
behind other rows, lest a customer should learn 
of their existence and insist on laying down 
money in exchange for them. He could hunt 
books from nine in the morning until five in the 


afternoon, and be as fresh and enthusiastic at 
the end of the day as he was at the beginning. 
That he did not run his legs off in the chase was 
principally due to the fact that it could not be 
done ; for years together he seemed incapable of 
understanding the meaning of the term 'physi- 
cal weariness.' He was never bored, and better 
still, was never persuaded of the futility of the 
whole business. In short he was a thorough 
sportsman, and belonged, by virtue of his 
sportsman-like qualities, to the school of Heber 
and of Locker-Lampson. 

When asked what he aimed at in his collect- 
ing Miller had one reply : *The building up of a 
good general library.' It was not to be a mu- 
seum of bookish curiosities but a place where a 
man might read to heart's content on many 
topics. A later chapter will show, though im- 
perfectly, that he came within sight of his goal. 

In the years of which I now speak Miller got 
little out of his books beyond the considerable 
pleasure of acquisition. He carried a few with 
[47 1 


him, a dozen or twenty, those in which for the 
time being he was particularly interested; the 
greater number went to his sister's house in 
the country and he saw them not above two or 
three times a year. But it was something to 
know that they were there, and to dream of the 
time when he might so order his life as to ad- 
mit of his enjoying a month or two every year 
with his beloved volumes. 

His bills for expressage must have been for- 
midable. It was his habit to accumulate little 
hoards of books at the shops he most frequented. 
A box was placed for his convenience under a 
counter and into it would go whatever he had 
bought there or in that vicinity. These small 
receptacles he called his bins. At intervals he 
would order a bin cleared and the contents 
shipped to some point where he proposed to 
spend a few weeks, and later reshipped to New 
York; whence the heavy package, augmented 
by the addition of numerous small packages, 
would make its way (always by express) to the 


final resting-place up country. Miller has been 
known to resent the price of a hotel room, but 
seldom the price of a book, and never the cost 
of carting any number of books half the length 
of the continent. 

The booksellers generally in the large cities 
knew him and welcomed his coming. There 
were very few shops where he did not feel at 
home. His criticism of the places he disliked 
took no more pronounced form than * I never 
seem to find anything there,' or 'They have, me 
judice, an exaggerated notion of the value of a 
book,' or * At that store the efforts of ignorant 
and officious clerks to be attentive make brows- 
ing difficult if not impossible.' He was driven 
out of one book-shop by a stripling who guessed, 
doubtless from Miller's appearance and talk, 
that he must certainly be in want of Marie 
Corelli's last novel, and undertook to sell him a 
copy. It would be a gifted salesman who could 
persuade Dewitt Miller to buy The Sorrows of 
Satan or The Mighty Atom against his will. 


When money was plentiful he bought as he 
would ; when depressed financially (the best of 
lecturers have their dark days) he showed re- 
markable skill in rooting out good things from 
the five and ten cent shelves and boxes. His 
crowning achievement, in the role of poor 
collector, was in * booking' for six consecutive 
days on fifty cents a day. He performed this 
feat in the city of Philadelphia one poverty- 
stricken September. Truly amazing was it at 
night-fall to see what he would bring out of the 
dark-green lawyer's bag which he always car- 
ried on his expeditions — good pamphlets his- 
torical and literary, clean copies of old maga- 
zines containing the first issue of some famous 
tale or essay, and many a two-volume novel 
of the 1837 period, bound in plain boards with 
paper labels. 

He bought for five cents the first English 

edition of Tupper's Proverbial Philosophy and 

rejoiced in its spotless condition as a hopeful 

sign that it had never been read. The book is 



not one to yearn for, either as a bibliophile or an 
amateur of letters. Nevertheless it has a his- 
tory, and any book with a history, any book 
that has held its own in spite of jeers and 
anathemas, was a book for the liberal-minded 
Miller. He was best pleased, when during this 
impoverished period, he lighted on copies of 
*The Token,' with the old-fashioned steel 
engravings and tales *by the author of "The 
Gentle Boy."' Five cents did not seem an 
extravagant sum to lay out on one of these. 

To hear him descant on the joys and possi- 
bilities of book-hunting on fifty cents a day you 
would have said that he preferred it to any 
other form of the sport. The oratorical instinct 
prompted him always to enlarge on an idea, to 
embroider it and show it off in various lights. 
He preferred existence on the broad scale. 
Convinced, it may be, that he would never be 
so poor again he took real pleasure in glorify- 
ing the condition in which he found himself for 
the moment. 



Go where Miller would the opportunities for 
buying books strewed his path, and he often 
came on a bargain in the unlikeliest of places. 
On one of his flying trips to Boston he asked 
where he might go to have his trousers re- 
paired — the ones he was wearing. I took him 
to the shop of an earnest little Hebrew tailor of 
my acquaintance. Miller sat behind a screen 
while the mending was in progress. On the 
broad window-sill of the shop lay three books, 
an edition of Shakespeare, possibly that to 
which B. W. Procter put his name, and for 
which Kenny Meadows drew illustrations. I 
told Miller that here was a bargain, teased him 
because of his helplessness, and only passed 
one of the volumes to him when he threatened 
to come out into the light of day as he was. 
Then began a dialogue between the book-col- 
lector and the tailor. It was really a pleasant 
occasion, and may readily be imagined : Miller 
trouserless behind the screen, talking in his 
sonorous voice, and the little tailor, his eyes 


twinkling 'astride the immemorial nose,' mak- 
ing shrewd responses as he plied the needle, and 
holding out for a price he thought suitable to 
this his first excursion into the realm of book- 

He was no Shylock, the little man. The 
price he asked was a fair one; Miller was glad 
to pay it, and the tailor equally glad to be rid 
of the Shakespeare. The bargain was com- 
pleted by the time the last stitch was taken. 
Our friend resumed his garment and walked 
off with the books under his arm. 


Dewitt Miller accounted himself fortun- 
ate above most men in the friends he possessed. 
Their number if not exactly legion was at all 
events great. Though not outwardly demon- 
strative he cherished them in his heart of 
hearts, and had a thousand ways of showing 
that he was mindful of their love. They on 
their part were always eager to do more for him 
than he would accept. Their prime difficulty 
lay in making him understand how well dis- 
posed they were, or if not that, then in per- 
suading him to act on the understanding. 
He was the least calculating of men; never in 
the slightest degree would he presume on a 

At times he quite irritated people by his odd 

way of holding off. Once when he failed to 

appear in season at a house where for him the 

latch-string always hung out, the impetuous 



mistress exclaimed, 'Well, if he thinks after all 
these years that he's going to have a formal 
invitation on gilt-edged paper, he's much mis- 

Nevertheless the invitation was sent, by 
telegram, commanding him in round terms to 
make his appearance at once, and no longer be- 
have like a pouting school-boy. As a matter 
of course he promptly came; he relished a mes- 
sage of the emphatic sort. 

*Did you think you would get your special 
gilt-edged invitation, Jahu?' he was asked as 
he alighted from his cab, laden with two fat 
suit-cases and a shawl-strap full of books. 

*I was sanguine to the extent of listening 
for early intimations of its approach, Indian 
fashion, with one ear on the ground,' he re- 

While there may have been a touch of the 

perverse in this trick of holding off, (as if he 

were waiting to be urged for the pleasure of 

being urged,) it is safe to say thatgenuine deli- 



cacy lay at the bottom of it. Not for a world of 
first editions would he have given his hosts an 
excuse for thinking that they had had a little 
too much of him. 

An expression often on Miller's lips was ' So- 
and-So has been very good to me.' To name by 
name even a fair-sized fraction of the large 
number of people who, in the course of his 
life, had been good to him, is not the purpose 
of the present writer. Still less is it his idea to 
assign to those he does mention a sort of rank 
in the hierarchy of Dewitt Miller's affections. 
The man did not classify his friends, any 
more than he measured out his gratitude in 
proportion to the nmnber of favors he had 

It would be unjust both to him and to them 
not to make clear how much accrued to him in 
the way of good fellowship and unstinted hos- 
pitality through his acquaintance with Mr. 
and Mrs. Francis Wilson, and Mr. and Mrs. 
John Irvin Cassedy. From the status of a man 


with no home, other than his club and his hotel, 
our friend passed to that of a man with two 
homes, one near New York City and one near 

Miller had known (and admired) Francis 
Wilson as a comedian for some time before he 
knew him as a friend. The two collectors were 
introduced to each other at Morris's book-shop, 
in Chicago, in 1891. Wilson used to give for 
the entertainment of his friends an imitation 
of Miller as he appeared to him at that first 
meeting, taking off with amusing exactness the 
pose, the gestures, the rapid utterance, the 
facial contortions, and the quick * teetering' 
step with which he shot out of the door when 
the brief chat was at an end. * It was like an 
electric shock,' said Wilson. *I experienced 
him, but by the time I had rubbed my eyes 
so as to take him all in, he was gone.' 

Miller paid his first visit to *The Orchard,' 
the Wilson home at New Rochelle, some time 
the following autumn. He then learned that 


while *any husband' may invite a man to his 
house, it pretty much rests with *any wife' to 
make the visit a source of pleasant recollec- 
tions. He never forgot the cordiality with 
which he was received by the lady of that 
hospitable home. 

Miller resembled Washington Irving in one 
particular — he was * delightful as a domestic 
animal.' The two daughters of the house, small 
children at that time, were pleased to find that 
this large, well-languaged gentleman whom 
their father had brought out of the West, would 
play hide-and-seek with them just before their 
bed-time, all the rooms on the second floor be- 
ing darkened for the purpose and everybody's 
shoes taken off, and that he could be persuaded 
at long intervals to delight them with his bear- 
dance. Miller's mimetic gifts were slender, but 
he gave a pretty good imitation of a laughing 
hyena in a cage, and of a bear clumsily waltz- 
ing on its hind legs. Few people have seen 
these gems of art. He could only be induced to 



perform when he was in an exalted mood, and 
had as an audience the children of friends he 

It may be guessed that visits so successful, 
from the point of view of both the entertainers 
and the entertained, would be frequently re- 
peated. And so they were. Miller's appear- 
ances at *The Orchard,' year after year, were 
only a little less regular than those of the sea- 

He was generally there in the month of Sep- 
tember, and for periods varying from ten days 
to four weeks. A room known as the *Tent 
Room' was assigned him; it came in time to 
be known as his, and finally to be called by 
his name. He always brought a quantity of 
books with him, as many as he could stagger 
under, and two or three packages followed by 
express, the spoils of a summer's browsing 
among the book-shops of Chicago, Kansas 
City, and Saint Louis. He seldom took away 
above a tenth of what he brought, and in conse- 



quence his stock of literature at 'The Orchard' 

Shelves were built in the *Tent Room' for 
the accommodation of Miller's books, and then 
more shelves. When every available foot of 
wall-space was taken up shelves were erected 
for the new arrivals in the part of the large cen- 
tral hall adjacent to his domain, and finally 
the books overflowed into a small room across 
the hall. The outcome was that when Dewitt 
Miller paid his long vacation visit to the Wilson 
family he had not merely the use of his host's 
many and well-chosen books, but he dropped 
into a comfortable little library of his own, a 
collection of not less than fifteen or eighteen 
hundred volumes. 

These books remained at *The Orchard' un- 
til that attractive residence was abandoned by 
its owners in favor of another. They were then 
nearly all shipped to Forest Glen, whither by 
this time the bulk of Miller's treasures had 



The advantage of having a large library in 
one place, and subsidiary libraries elsewhere, 
does not need to be explained to your genuine 
collector of books. Miller often found it of use 
in explaining real or seeming deficiencies in his 
stock. If some notable gap were discovered he 
could say, *That book must be at the Glen,' or 
* Sowers is keeping it for me,' or * It is probably 
tucked away in my bin at Frank Morris's.' He 
would add, *But I have it, I know-w-w I have 
it.' And lest there should be any doubt about 
his having it he would improve the first oppor- 
tunity to buy another copy, 'So as to have one 
at both places in the event of our needing to 
consult it.' With him any excuse sufficed for 
the buying of duplicates. 

A man who, like our friend, had spent the 
hottest weeks of a long summer in uninter- 
rupted travelling and lecturing through ten 
states, might well rejoice when finally he landed 
at *The Orchard.' Miller was much pleased 
with a custom which prevailed there of serving 
[ftl 1 


a first breakfast of coffee and rolls to the guests 
in their own rooms at an hour of their own nam- 
ing. For all that he was such an active fellow 
physically, there was a dash of the sybarite in 
him. As may be guessed he was a striking fig- 
ure propped on the pillows, the steaming coffee- 
cup on a little table at his left hand, the coun- 
terpane littered with the New York morning 
papers, already riddled by his implacable scis- 
sors, the gigantic bibliography of first editions 
that he carried for years sprawled on its back 
within reach, twenty sheets of common hotel- 
stationery covered with his hieroglyphics and 
inserted between the leaves where new entries 
were to be made, and twice twenty books, not 
*at his beddes heed,' but scattered over such 
parts of the bed as were not occupied by his 
very large self. He was never more entertain- 
ing in talk than at these morning hours, as the 
master of the house can bear witness. 

Miller became greatly attached to the Wil- 
sons ' butler, Maurice Young. He used to say 


that his idea of earthly bliss might be de- 
scribed somewhat as follows: To wake up in 
the *Tent Room' after a good night's sleep, 
press the electric button at the head of the bed 
by which he regularly summoned Maurice, who 
should appear in due time with the tray on 
which were disposed the pot of coffee, the rolls 
and butter, the boiled eggs, the marmalade, 
and the morning papers. Having put the tray 
down Maurice would leave the room for a mo- 
ment, to return as quickly as possible with a 
second tray on which should lie two crisp ten- 
dollar bills *to buy a few books with.' Thus 
fortified in stomach and in purse Miller thought 
he might be able cheerfully to face his day. 
The service was not to vary from January to 

He was the happiest of men during his vaca- 
tion and literally basked in the comfort that 
surrounded him. As busy too as he was good- 
humored, he got through a deal of work, chiefly 
in the way of enlarging his stock of biblio- 


graphical knowledge, supplemented by much 
letter-writing, and no end of clipping and 
pasting of the clippings in the backs of 

All his whimsicalities come to mind as one 
thinks about him and recalls those holidays, 
as for example, his trick of going about on tip- 
toe with a springy kind of step that set every- 
thing near him to vibrating. This he always 
did, for he was most considerate of the comfort 
of others, when some one he wished not to dis- 
turb was taking a nap or writing a letter. It 
was his way of being quiet. He seemed to think 
that if he made no noise with his heels, merely 
shook the whole house, all was well. 

At 'The Orchard' one had the privilege of 
becoming acquainted with his skill at the only 
out-of-door game he ever played. On the plot 
of ground back of the house were an excellent 
tennis-court and an indifferent croquet-field. 
When it was learned that Miller had a passion 
for croquet the field was improved, and new 


balls and mallets ordered from the city. Many 
a hot contest took place there, for the man 
played with demoniacal energy and proved to 
be invincible. His enthusiasm was catching 
and through one unforgettable season every 
member of the household became absorbed in 
the old-fashioned game. 

The sport was often protracted to a late 
hour. One picture quite vivid to my mind is of 
a game that was fiercely contested after night- 
fall. I can see Miller padding over the turf 
mallet in hand, and the two little girls running 
about in a state of intense excitement, holding 
their small lanterns over the wickets so that 
the combatants might see to make their shots, 
and the group of watchers on the veranda, jeer- 
ing or applauding as the fortunes of war turned, 
but rather less interested in the outcome than 
in a considerable display of human nature on 
the part of the players. Our friend fought for 
victory; you might take all his books and ap- 
propriate the contents of his wallet, but you 


might not rob him of a game of croquet when 
it was in his power to prevent you. 

He could never be persuaded to try his hand 
at golf, though he believed that in so far as 
strength is an important element of success he 
was fitted to shine at the game. 

* Could you do that? ' I asked, as we watched 
a magnificent drive. 

*I am not at all sure that I could hit the 
ball,' he replied ; and then added, with his char- 
acteristic chuckling laugh, *But I am confident 
of one thing — if I ever did hit it, an exploring 
party provisioned for thirty days would need 
to be sent out to ascertain its whereabouts.' 

Knowing Miller for the most entertaining 
and amiable of house companions one is 
tempted to speculate as to the sort of man he 
would have been in a home of his own. Con- 
sidering him in the light of a Benedict one 
thing at least can be predicated — his wife 
would never have had to ask for money. 

He never married. Perhaps it is well that 


he did not. Marriage means surrender — to 
a certain extent. The compensations are re- 
ported to be enormous, but there is no doubt 
as to the fact of surrender. Now Miller was 
at heart a nomad, a blend of gipsy scholar and 
gipsy book-hunter, impatient under restriction 
of any sort, though commonly betraying his 
impatience in ways not unpleasant but most 
amusing to the spectator. Prescribe a social 
duty for him, one that smacked in the least 
of the conventional, or attempt seriously to 
regulate his movements, and you had a prob- 
lem on your hands. 

Speaking then with a certain amount of 
exaggeration one may say of Miller that if 
there was a particular place to which he ought 
to go, he gave the impression of being extremely 
loath to go there. Merely because of this idio- 
syncrasy he was better off as a bachelor. Mar- 
riage means a home, but home is a place to 
which even the wandering lecturer is obliged 
occasionally to go. 


During these years his principal library — 
a much smaller collection than it is now, but of 
a respectable size, nevertheless — was at Car- 
mel. New York, housed in the village store of 
which mention has already been made. Miller 
felt that the books were safest there, where his 
sister, Mrs. Webb, could overlook them from 
time to time, but he never pretended that they 
were easy to get at. 

They might have remained at Carmel to 
this day had not the growth of his friendship 
with Mr. and Mrs. John Irvin Cassedy led 
to their proposing, and his gladly accepting, 
another plan for the care of his bookish 

His acquaintance with these two people, 

who were to do so much for his comfort, began 

at Norfolk, Virginia, where for some years they 

conducted a school for girls and young women ; 



he twice gave the annual Commencement ad- 
dress, and lectured for them on yet other occa- 
sions. When, in 1894, they founded a new 
school at Forest Glen, Maryland, nine miles 
from Washington, Miller was told that in spite 
of their nearness to the National fountain-head 
of oratory, they must still depend in a measure 
on his services. And so he continued his visits, 
and came to be looked on, not as the mere non- 
resident lecturer (one of many), but as a par- 
ticular friend. It was several years, however, 
before the idea of his having a library there 
took shape. 

The project was treated at first with an air 
of frank pleasantry. Miller did not, I believe, 
quite grasp the fact that these people who 
could jest so easily about putting up a library 
for him were quite in earnest. At the same 
time he liked to hear the plan discussed. 

We who heard the discussions used to tell 
Mrs. Cassedy that it was evident she was 
founding an asylum for geniuses, a la Tanmias 


Haggart, and that Miller was to be the first 
inmate. She would laugh merrily and reply 
that at all events her flock of geniuses need 
have no fear of being confined under one roof; 
they should occupy a row of artistic cottages, 
one to each, along the highway to the west of 
the main building, and be free to go and come 
at their pleasure. 

The rapid growth of the school compelled 
the putting up of new buildings or the recon- 
struction of old ones. There was often a little 
army of workmen in the field through the sum- 
mer months, and it was a comparatively simple 
matter in Mr. Gassedy's opinion to run up one 
more structure of moderate size. Miller was 
lucky in having a patron of the constructive 
turn of mind. Gassedy's associates have long 
known him for a man to whom problems in 
stone and timber, in plaster and paint, offer no 
terrors. With him building has not been a 
discipline but rather a sport. It follows from 
this, as well as from his affection for our friend, 



that he took a deep personal interest in the 
erection of the * Miller Library.' 

The work was completed by the beginning 
of winter, 1901, and Miller gave the order to 
have all his belongings shipped by freight from 
Carmel. On a day in late January the first 
case of books was opened. By way of invest- 
ing the affair with some pomp and circum- 
stance three of us, solemnly and simultaneously, 
put a hand into the box, drew out each a book, 
and as solemnly placed the three books side by 
side on a shelf; we then sent word to Miller 
(who was at that time lecturing in the West), 
that some headway had been made in the 
classification of the library. 

He took formal possession in May, and for 
the next ten years he was regularly at the 
Glen during that month, besides making shorter 
visits at irregular intervals through the year. 
He became a factor in the school life, was in- 
vested with the office of chaplain, conducted 
the news-classes from time to time, made an 


admirable patron saint to the club which had 
chosen him for an honorary member, and 
proved himself everybody's friend. 

In describing the Library one finds oneself 
instinctively using the past tense; the genius 
of the place is gone. 

The first floor consisted of a single large 
room, and running completely around it, a 
gallery reached by a stairway immediately at 
the right as one entered. At one end of the 
room was a fire-place in rough stone flanked 
by settles. At the opposite end, near an im- 
mense window opening down the Glen, stood 
the writing-desk and a homely cane-seated 
revolving-chair. The desk was a long, nar- 
row, old-fashioned contrivance, with shallow 
drawers, a sloping top that could be lifted, 
and a small horizontal space at each end for 
the accommodation of ink-bottles and paste- 
pots. When there was nothing on it but a pad 
of paper and a dozen envelopes it might have 
been accounted a fairly roomy desk. One 


might depend, however, on its being covered 
with everything it could be made to hold. 

The truth is that this desk, to which Miller 
clung as tenaciously as to his old experienced 
working-coat, held about one quarter of the 
stuff he wanted within reach when he was at 
work. To meet his further needs he had a nest 
of little tables (with preposterously long legs), 
two or three of which were always gathered 
about him, and piled high with pamphlets, 
journals, letters, bundles of clippings, and 
what not. The frail httle tables fairly stag- 
gered under the weight imposed on them. 
Now and then one sunk to the floor from sheer 
exhaustion, and then must the help of Miller's 
mechanical friend, Jeremiah Blackburne, be 
called in to repair the damage. 

Every inch of wall-space in the room was 
shelved and crowded with books. A wide open- 
ing opposite the main entrance led to a second 
and even more attractive room, also shelved to 
its capacity, galleried like the first, and pro- 


vided with a sky-light. In this room was a 
library-table of such noble dimensions that 
four authors could have done their work on it 
simultaneously without quarreling overmuch. 
In addition to the open shelves there were a 
half dozen cases with glass doors in which our 
collector kept many of his finer and rarer vol- 
umes. And chairs of course, easy and other- 
wise, in great profusion. They served to sit on, 
put books in, or to fall over. When Miller was 
left alone for half a day he filled every chair in 
the room, save one, with books; and the place 
never looked more attractive than it did at 
these times, with evidences on every side that 
he was grappling with his library. 

On the posts that supported the gallery in 
the main room and on the gallery rail itself, 
hung a number of portraits, a few of them 
framed up with autograph letters. Statesmen, 
soldiers, men of letters, a composer of popular 
songs, a philosopher, and a group of personal 
friends (some of them life-sized and staring 


prodigiously) constituted Dewitt Miller's art 
collection. It was a heterogeneous assortment, 
but then — he was a heterogeneous person. 
And if it pleased him to hang Charles Eliot 
Norton and Dan Emmett in close proximity 
there is no good reason why he should not have 
had his way. 

One sometimes paid dearly for the privilege 
of having one's face in a frame in the Library. 
There was no limit to Miller's inventiveness 
when the mood for banter was on him. When 
the glass that covered one of these photographs 
became broken he declined to have it replaced, 
on the ground that it would almost immedi- 
ately crack again. It must not be supposed 
that he put the idea in so bald a form. He was 
polysyllabic, allusive, and alliterative. His 
statement of the case drew a shout of laughter 
from every one present, including the victim. 
Lest any blame should attach to himself from 
the broken glass on the score of indifferent 
house-keeping, he wrote on a card the sub- 


stance of what he had just said and stuck the 
card in the glass ; it remained there for months. 
Hanging from the gallery-rail near the fire- 
place was an object that seemed out of keeping 
with its bookish surroundings, namely a huge 
wasps' nest, doubtless a survival from boy- 
hood days, a reminder of the period of our 
friend's earliest collecting. Miller was very 
fond of it. Some one had told him of John 
Josselyn, the early New England tourist, and 
his misadventure; who, walking in the woods, 

* chanced to spy a fruit, as I thought, like a 

* pine-apple plated with scales. I made bold to 
*step unto it, with an intent to have gathered 
*it. . . . By the time I was come into the house 
Hhey hardly knew me but by my garments.' 
Miller had this passage printed in boldfaced 
type and tacked up under his beloved wasps' 

From the gallery of the main room a narrow 
staircase led to the second floor. When I say 
*a narrow staircase' I do not mean that it was 



Main Room 


not wide enough to serve its purpose. But 
Miller insisted on putting book-shelves along 
its entire length, and as a result he had almost 
to go up and down sideways. He has been 
known to rub off books as he descended in 
haste from the upper regions. 

On the second floor were his bed-room and 
guest-chamber, a comfortably large hall, and a 
spacious covered veranda. In the hall he kept 
a big cedar chest filled with the sartorial accu- 
mulations of years. He had in full measure the 
bachelor's helplessness with respect to the care 
of bodily raiment. His clothes were made of 
the best and strongest materials, the seams 
welded rather than sewn. He never absolutely 
wore a suit out, and he lacked the courage to 
throw it away when it was no longer in the 
mode. Hence the plethoric state of the cedar 

No pleasanter sight was to be met with on a 
May morning than Dewitt Miller beating up 
the contents of the cedar chest for moths. He 


did it with an energy akin to that he displayed 
in lecturing on 'Our Country's Possibilities 
and Perils.' I think it was a real relief to him 
when he found that in bestowing of his abun- 
dance on the negro workmen about the place 
he could do a deed of genuine kindness and 
himself lead the simpler life. But the facts 
had to be clearly laid before him. 

Parallel with the hall and of equal length ran 
the great covered veranda, and this he turned 
into a sleeping-room. Only last May he was 
busy superintending the putting up of screens 
to keep out the 'matutinal fly.' 

The walls of the hall were coated on both 
sides with books, and there were shelves in 
each of the bed-rooms. On first taking posses- 
sion of the Library, Miller had placed several 
heavy cases in his own room next the partition, 
and filled them with his rarest books. He had 
an idea that the air was dryer up there, and 
that it was in all ways a better place for the 
* nuggets' than on the ground level. Under 


the weight of the cases the bed-room floor 
began Httle by Httle to sink, and kept on sink- 
ing until Miller feared that he might be in the 
plight of the man in the * Purple Cow' book. 
That worthy had walls and a ceiling but no 
place to put his feet, and used to spring from 
the bed to the dresser, and from the dresser to 
the door. 

When the lord of the manor was summoned 
to look at the damage that was being done he 
made no comment on the behavior of the floor, 
but remarked dryly that *it was a pretty good 
partition that would stand without visible 
means of support.' The heavy book-cases 
were removed and there was no further set- 
tling. Miller even thought that the floor and 
the partition showed a tendency to reunite — 
which shows what an essentially optimistic 
nature he had. 

Getting the books arranged in some sem- 
blance of order proved a long task, but at the 
same time an amusing and instructive one. 


Miller learned many things about his posses- 
sions in the mere act of transporting them up- 
stairs and downstairs, or from one side of the 
great room to the other side. He was glad to 
delegate a part of the work as he afterward had 
a chance to do. The classes in library-science 
were held in his building, much to his satisfac- 
tion, and the teacher in charge. Miss Freebey, 
took a more than common interest in the wel- 
fare of the books, and came in time to be spo- 
ken of as the librarian. Miller freely lent his 
volumes and had no concern for the length of 
time they stayed away, but was human enough 
to desire that they be brought back * on or before 
*the morning of the Great Assizes.' The jeal- 
ous care shown for the safety of his treasures 
in his absence gratified him. He said gleefully 
of his librarian, *I can always be sure of one 
thing — if she lends three books she will exact 
four in return.' 


To give an adequate account of Miller's 
books is work for the professed bibliographer, 
and in the following paragraphs one can do no 
more than throw out a few hints as to the sort 
of thing he liked to buy. It must be kept in 
mind that he belonged to the race of * collectors 
omnivorous,' and was only prevented by lack 
of money from devouring the contents of whole 
book-shops at a meal. 

For books of reference of all kinds he had a 
veritable passion. Encyclopaedias were his j oy , 
and the man who could get more comfort out 
of the Dictionary of National Biography than 
Miller, has yet to be found. The acquisition 
of a fat, double-columned, closely-printed, 
newly-revised and greatly-augmented com- 
pendium of knowledge — any kind of know- 
ledge — gave him intense delight. He bought 
dictionaries of art, architecture, engineering, 


music, medicine, furniture, classical antiqui- 
ties, not because it is proper to buy them but 
because he had a craving for them. He packed 
his shelves with handbooks of proverbs and 
wise sayings, of superstitions, of characters of 
fiction, of last words of famous (or infamous) 
men, of all the odds and ends that have been 
partially classified and wholly alphabetized. 

He found Dictionaries of the English lan- 
guage irresistible, and was in a way to collect 
them all, from the earliest and most unscien- 
tific glossary down to the great Oxford Dic- 
tionary, now in course of publication. Had he 
been one of the original projectors of James 
Murray's monumental work he could hardly 
have shown more enthusiasm as the successive 
volumes made their appearance. Small dic- 
tionaries he bought much as a man might buy 
grapes — by the bunch. Any word-book that 
came recommended by a scholarly name and a 
new treatment of the old material was certain 
to be added to his stock. He liked the manuals 


that are ostensibly compiled for printers, and 
which prove so helpful to the rest of the world. 
One of his latest loves was the Authors' and 
Printers' Dictionary by F. H. Collins, a genuine 
thesaurus, by the way. He must have pur- 
chased twenty-five copies, for himself and his 

For books about books, general and special 
bibliographies, sale-catalogues and all other 
catalogues whatsoever, he had a collector's 
natural fondness. His imperfect knowledge of 
French cut him off from much that he would 
have found useful in this direction. Perhaps it 
is well that he did not conceive a passion for 
original editions of the Romantics; he would 
have found it costly. The books of Peacock, 
Borrow, Henry Taylor, and Edward FitzGerald 
seem more in keeping with his own tastes. 

In looking over the shelves devoted to Eng- 
lish history one might expect to find most of 
the works that a gentleman ought to have. 
Yet here as elsewhere he was governed in his 


collecting by his personal preferences. He 
must, for example, have everything that came 
from the pen of E. A. Freeman, or of Goldwin 
Smith, and the unimportant fact that he al- 
ready owned two copies of a given book was 
not allowed to stand in the way of his buying 
two more. Of biographies of English states- 
men he had an abundance; biography in gen- 
eral was one of his hobbies. 

He seemed more eager to collect editions of 
Thackeray than of Dickens, TroUope, Reade, 
* George Eliot,' or the Brontes. One did well, 
however, not to criticise him for the meagre- 
ness of the show of books by a given author; it 
might turn out that the few he owned were 
presentation copies of no little value. 

Passing over the modern poets and essay- 
ists, who were well represented, one must note 
Miller's great interest in Doctor Johnson and 
those about him. My impression is that he 
owned all the editions of Boswell, from the 
first two volume quarto to the last little pocket 


edition printed on India paper. All the other 
lives, recollections, and estimates were on 
his shelves — Hawkins, Piozzi, Tyers, every 
catchpenny sketch or satirical squib, to- 
gether with the considerable library of modern 
contributions to Johnsonian literature. 

Were the booksellers about the country to 
be questioned as to Miller's preferences they 
would probably say that he cared most for a 
book that gave proof of having once been in 
its author's possession, the man's own copy 
with corrections by his hand, or a copy that 
he had given a friend and inscribed with a 
characteristic sentiment. The Library con- 
tained an uncommon number of j ust such agree- 
able items, and were a little descriptive cata- 
logue to be made of them it could hardly be 
other than pleasant reading. Miller certainly 
looked upon these as the best feature of his 

He enjoyed giving distinction to a book by 
some touch of his own, as when he had a rose, 


plucked from FitzGerald's grave ('by my 
friend Mr. Loder, stationer of Woodbridge, in 
my presence'), mounted in a panel and bound 
into an early (perhaps the first) edition of the 
Rubdiydt. Here is another illustration of what 
he liked to do : A certain publisher brought out 
an unauthorized edition of an early work by a 
celebrated American writer, now dead. The 
literary executor protested in terms that no 
pirate of sensitive disposition could enjoy read- 
ing. But Miller was sure that the legal pub- 
lishers (who also published for the executor) 
had been selling copies of that identical work 
within the twelvemonth. He forwarded copies 
of both the authorized and the unauthorized 
edition to the editorial department of the house 
begging for an explanation. And the editorial 
department was so good-natured as to write 
on a fly-leaf of their edition a full account of 
the affair. It was a very singular story, and of 
no interest whatever except to book-collectors. 
One is puzzled to know how to give an ac- 


count of our friend's reading. He was con- 
stantly surprising us by revealing an acquaint- 
ance with some author we should have said he 
had never looked into. One afternoon in the 
Library I picked up his copy of Sadducismus 
Triumphatus and fell to reading here and 
there. Presently I read aloud a paragraph and 
asked him if it were not remarkably good writ- 
ing, supposing that he would at once inquire 
what book I had. But without looking up 
from the newspaper he was clipping Miller 
replied, *0h, capital writer, capital! There 
aren't many men more vigorous than Joe 

It may have been a mere coincidence. Pos- 
sibly he knew that one striking paragraph 
from *Joe Glanvil' better than he knew the 
volume as a whole. On the other hand these 
coincidences were forever occurring; he must 
have read in a great many books, and perse- 
vered to the end of not a few. His faculty for 
getting always at the core of a book stood him 


in good stead. He divined the exact location 
of what he wanted while another might have 
blundered about in search of it. 

One may safely say that he preferred biogra- 
phies, memoirs, table-talk, and collections of 
letters to every other form of literature, as- 
suming him to be reading for pure intellectual 
pleasure. Pepys, Gibbon, Hume (in his corre- 
spondence), Madame D'Arblay, Lady Mary 
Wortley Montagu, Horace Walpole, Chester- 
field, Gray, Kirkpatrick Sharpe, Byron the let- 
ter-writer, — he delighted in them all, and in 
the modern examples of epistolary and biogra- 
phical art hardly less than in the earlier ones. 

I think of him as having done his heroic 
reading between the ages of seventeen and 
thirty, or thereabouts, and as having read on 
a greater variety of subjects after he became 
a confirmed book-collector, but with less at- 
tention to each. There are good reasons for 
holding this view and none for holding it too 
rigidly. Miller was capable at any moment of 
[ 88 ] 


grappling with a heavy book on socialism or 
psychology, let us say, and of hanging on until 
he had mastered what it had to give. 

And lastly, he was so constituted that his 
hearty admiration of Culture and Anarchy, 
Studies in the Renaissance, and The Torch did 
not in the least interfere with his enjoyment of 
the Rhymes of Ironquill and the lucubrations 
of *Abe Martin.' To be so open-minded and 
friendly towards both men and books as was 
Dewitt Miller is to have inexhaustible sources 
of happiness at one's command. 


His ordinary talk was much like his public 
discourse, but far richer and more varied, well 
worth any listener's while, even the most culti- 
vated. They who have heard *The Uses of 
Ugliness' and 'The Stranger at Our Gates' 
know something of Dewitt Miller; they alone 
have a right idea of his amazing mental act- 
ivity and his wide knowledge of men and 
events whose privilege it has been to listen to 
him when he was not only in the mood to talk, 
but also in the mood to settle himself down and 
*have his talk out.' 

We who were often with him believed that he 
spoke remarkably good English. But were we 
competent to pronounce on the question? Did 
not Fitzedward Hall drop a hint to the effect 
that Americans could hardly be expected to 
know real English for the simple reason that 
they abnost never had a chance to hear it 


spoken? And did he not also say (or imply) 
that an American's only hope of learning to 
speak the language himself lay in his taking up 
residence in England, and there devoting him- 
self to listening with both ears and watching 
every sentence that he uttered? 

Something like that I seem to have read 
somewhere in Fitzedward Hall's books, — all 
of which, by the way, Miller bought, read in a 
little, and regularly quoted. With what hu- 
morous unction would he roll out the following 
sentence, in which the angry philologer berates 
another philologer: * There is one of their num- 
*ber, however, a wholesale sponsor, and also 
'an originator, of superficial conceits, whose 
*clientry of clapper-clawers, misrepresenting 
*the character of my strictures, and, fathering 
*on me, with frontless mendacity, the most 

* preposterous principles, have, in requital, 

* shown themselves, as an old author phrases it, 
'valiantly railipotent.' 

I can still hear the cadence of Miller's voice 
[91 ] 


as he chanted the words ' vaUantly raUipotent,* 
giving every syllable its full value, and the 
gurgle of laughter with which he followed the 
quotation, and the large patter of his steps as 
he ran to put the book away, and his ejacu- 
lation of 'Very entertaining old gentleman, 
Fitzedward Hall, very!' 

Two of Miller's friends were speaking of his 
charm as a converser (he had that moment 
left them), and they remarked that if he lived 
to be seventy-five or eighty as he seemed 
likely to do, and retained all his powers, the 
young men who heard him in his old age would 
probably say to one another that that must 
have been the way in which all cultivated gen- 
tlemen used to talk in the Nineties and the 
early Nineteen hundreds ; and they would per- 
haps lament the decay of the art of conversa- 
tion, and have a sentimental word to say about 
the good old times. Now the truth is that De- 
witt Miller stood almost in a class by himself. 
One does not often meet with men so fertile in 
I 92 ] 


ideas and so affluent of speech as was he. A 
typical American through and through, he 
seemed to belong to an earlier age and an older 
country. He might have lived at Halliford on 
the Thames, and been intimate with Thomas 
Love Peacock. The author of Crotchet Castle 
would have liked Miller, I firmly believe, liked 
him in spite of the fact that his Greek was par- 
ticularly small. 

To account for the extraordinary power our 
friend displayed in talk is no easy matter. I 
have heard a critic who never uses the word 
lightly say, 'Genius, and nothing less.' That 
may be all there was of it. The man had an 
indubitable gift, one of the sort that Nature 
bestows at random, not even looking to see 
into whose keeping it falls. 

That he did not trust to his gift alone but 
always took pains was evident to the most care- 
less observer. When it came his turn to move 
in the conversational game he almost never 
moved at once. You could see that he was re- 
[93 1 


volving the subject in his mind, looking on all 
sides of it, or if not all, on as many as he thought 
needful for his purpose. Owing to the great 
rapidity with which his mind worked you never 
had to wait long, but you waited, nevertheless, 
until he was quite ready to speak. The pro- 
cess was the same even when it was a ques- 
tion of repartee, a game at which he was amaz- 
ingly quick and brilliant; he took his time to 
prepare, — an infinitesimal amount, to be sure, 
but enough. 

To his habit of taking pains may be referred 
the clarity of his ideas and the freshness and 
vigor of his diction. He was never slovenly in 
his thinking or careless in his choice of terms. 
He never maundered. Rather than utter 
nothings in an aimless way (what he always 
described as * chortling'), he would keep per- 
fectly still. 

The large words that he affected became him 
as they might not have become many another 
talker. Print the sentence as he uttered it and 
[ 94] 


its peculiar effectiveness in point of diction 
would be quite lost. The presence of the man, 
the tones of his voice, the facial expression, 
all the elements that go to make the orator and 
the table-talker must be taken into account. 
And it is well to bear in mind that Miller often 
used polysyllabic words with a humorous or an 
ironical intent. 

He was no tyrant in talk but a man who 
could listen to others patiently and apprecia- 
tively, and for any length of time. Never was 
he known to give signs of uneasiness because 
the leadership had not been handed over to 
him. He was incapable of that degree of ego- 
tism. If one of his long silences prompted 
the question, 'Why don't you say something, 
Jahu?' the response would be, * I am listening, 
I am listening — and enjoying.' 

And so he was ; but whether he was enjoying 
what was said, or the lame efforts of the speak- 
ers to say something, did not always appear. 
At times he carried an inscrutable countenance. 


Though he never consciously aimed at deliv- 
ering a monologue he understood that difficult 
art, and practised it in places where he felt at 
liberty to do so. One heard him at his best 
when he held the centre of the stage and had 
become completely absorbed in the theme. It 
was pleasant, too, after he had maintained a 
paradox with large and flowing speech and a 
wealth of argument, to hear the scoffer's 'Well, 
you have at least got it out of your system, 
Jahu,' and then his almost liturgical *Verily, 
verily, animam liberaviJ 

He was never overbearing in conversation 
though often overpowering. The fault lay in 
his bringing to many a subject more mind than 
the subject deserved. Where the conversation 
lay between three or four, no one suffered ; each 
did his share in bearing the burden of so ex- 
haustive a treatment. But when the party con- 
sisted of Miller and one other, that one other 
had in general no resource but to sink back in 
his chair and let the billows of mingled sound 


and sense roll over him. Had he been in any 
real danger of drowning, Miller himself would 
have been the first to perceive it. 

In argument he was ingenious and usually 
sound, though he loved now and then to sup- 
port a fantastical opinion. He enjoyed buf- 
feting an adversary. But so good-natured was 
he that his hardest blows left the effect of 
having been delivered with a very soft boxing- 
glove; one might be disconcerted, as well as 
red in the face, but was otherwise none the 
worse for having been struck. Miller never 
shouted an adversary down. If, however, he 
felt that the need for vocal energy existed he 
would * sound his barbaric yawp over the roofs 
*of the world,' and rejoice in so doing. Ebulli- 
tions of this sort took place only among his 
intimates and were partly due to mere animal 

While there were many topics on which he 
had little or nothing to say his range was by no 
means narrow. He talked remarkably well on 


politics and American political history. But 
one can see now that the parts of the history 
for which he greatly cared were those contem- 
poraneous with his own life, or very nearly so. 
One never heard him expatiate on the Revolu- 
tion, or the War of 1812, or the growth of the 
* American system,' or the struggle between 
Jackson and South Carolina; it was when he 
reached the period of the Lincoln-Douglas 
debates that he became copious. 

Albeit he was only a boy when the Civil War 
ended, his knowledge of the causes leading up 
to the great struggle, and of the men who were 
foremost in the government during the years 
of its prosecution, was full and gave every sign 
of being exact. So vivid were the pictures he 
drew that he seemed at times to be speaking as 
an eye-witness. A listener unacquainted with 
his real age would have said that Miller had 
undoubtedly heard many an exciting debate 
and been present at many a turbulent political 
gathering between 1857 and 1865. 


His command of mere names and dates was 
astonishing, and to loose talkers, annoying. 
Conscious of being in the right, opposition 
made him positive, even superiatively positive. 
Then would he roll his head from side to side 
as he talked, and emphasize his statements by 
slapping softly and repeatedly on the table 
with the flat of his large white hands. 

Of late years his talk ran less on modem 
English political history than it once did. His 
strength there lay in a broad knowledge of the 
events that touched, however remotely, the 
careers of Disraeli and Gladstone. Not a book, 
or pamphlet, or leading article that concerned 
either of these two escaped his eye. But when 
Gladstone died our friend's interest in English 
politics rather declined. 

It is a singular fact that this passionate col- 
lector was at heart far more curious about hu- 
manity than about printed paper, and would 
anytime throw aside a book to talk with a man. 
He had met so many people of varying degrees 
[ 99 ] 


of celebrity, and so many people *who had no 
name at all ' but were none the less interesting 
on that account, that he was often at his best 
when human nature, exemplified in any one of 
several hundred men and women, w^as his 

Progressive movements in the scientific, the 
social, and the ecclesiastical worlds always at- 
tracted him; he talked well on many a topic 
of that sort. His knowledge of medicine and 
surgery was excellent for an amateur, and if he 
spoke, as he often did, of psycho-therapeutics, 
he could be depended on to discourse in a way 
that was certainly entertaining and possibly 
instructive. A man who heard Doctor Holmes 
talk on only one occasion remarked that his 
conversation, though witty, contained *too 
great an infusion of physiological and medical 
metaphor.' One sometimes remembered this 
criticism when Dewitt Miller was speaking. 

He gave, as a matter of course, no end of 
proofs that he had read his theological books, 
[ 100] 


and his knowledge of the English Bible must 
have been unusual if one may judge of it by 
the immense number of quotations and allu- 
sions one heard him make. 

In a word, he had stored up a deal of mis- 
cellaneous information on a great variety of 
topics, more perhaps than any of us suspected ; 
and without the least pretence to omniscience 
he made a free use of the store in his common 
everyday talk. One trait illustrative of his 
habit of mind stands out in bold relief now. 
Miller never despised the seemingly unrelated 
fact, the mere scrap of information that re- 
sembled nothing so much as a single page torn 
from a book. His avidity for these waifs and 
strays frequently moved us to laughter, as if 
we alone were grown up and he a precocious 
school-boy, cramming the pockets of his round- 
about and knickerbockers with all manner of 
odds and ends, from twine to jack-knives. But 
we were not so wise as we thought. His instinct 
v/as sound. The unrelated fact presently 
[ 101 ] 


ranged itself, was drawn to other facts or be- 
came the centre of a group of its own, and when 
needed in conversation could be brought out 
and used with telling force. The sense of plea- 
surable surprise that one experienced while 
Dewitt Miller was talking may be referred in 
large degree to a skillful use of such material. 
No record of his talk exists, and therefore no 
proof can be given that he was as many-sided 
and as brilliant as has been alleged. We who 
have heard him (and there are many hundreds 
of us) are firmly convinced of his ability. We 
can always say, one to another, 'You have 
heard him too, and you know.' We are modest 
in our claims, as becomes us in speaking of a 
man who always placed a modest estimate on 
his own powers. We do not say that he was a 
* great converser,' but we hold, and will con- 
tinue to hold, to the belief that of the gifts 
essential to the making of a great converser 
not a few were his. 


*This is not a record office for his sayings,' 
wrote Thomas Tyers in his sketch of Johnson, 
and then gives three of the Doctor's best. One 
would gladly be persuaded that three of De- 
witt Miller's wittiest remarks had been in- 
cluded among the eight or ten that follow. 
Unhappily it is not a question of choosing from 
many good things in the hope of getting at the 
best, but of setting down the very few that 
cling to the memory, with private lamentations 
because their number is so small. 

In printing these few one runs the risk of 
misrepresenting their author. It is laying more 
stress on them than was meant to be laid, — 
as if one were to frame and glaze a picture that 
was certainly worth keeping, though it would 
better have been pasted in a scrap-book than 
hung on the wall. Should they help the reader 
to recall other sayings of his and thereby help 


in some degree to keep fresh and vivid the 
memory of his cheerful presence, they will have 
served a purpose. 

There was a certain man, commonly spoken 
of in our immediate circle as the Deacon, with 
whom Miller had business relations for a brief 
time. He dropped a remark one day to the 
effect that the Deacon was anxious not alone 
for his worldly advancement, but also for his 
spiritual welfare. A bystander exclaimed scep- 
tically, 'Brother X does n't pray with you, I 

*No,' said Miller. * Preys upon me. Has 
his choice of preposition.' 

Of some boastful acquaintance who owned a 
house, and labored under the delusion that he 
also owned an estate, Miller said, with a grunt 
of amusement, 'Why, the fellow's plot of 
ground is so small that he could n't put his 
foot out of doors without trespassing.' 

He took vast delight in gibing at the dimin- 
utive artificial lake much 'featured' in the 
[ 104 ] 


advertisements of a well-known summer resort 
among the hills of Maryland, affirming, for 
example, that * a man fell into it the other day 
and soaked it all up ; then he looked around and 
wondered how in the world he came to get wet.* 
Miller saw this minute body of water annually, 
and it always stimulated his invention. 

He had a pleasant way of giving an unex- 
pected turn to old formulas and set phrases. 
A friend sneezed prodigiously in his presence, 
and instead of blessing him in the customary 
fashion Miller cried, in a loud and joyous voice, 
'God bless the earth and the fullness thereof!* 
The friend, a man of great resources, sneezed a 
second time, and louder than before. Where- 
upon Miller said (smiling), *I '11 add two 

When told of the extraordinary richness of a 
tract of land not far from his library Miller's 
eyes glittered with pleasure. And thinking of 
his favorite vegetables he said in a fervent 
tone, * I wish I could farm it. I 'd raise onions 
[ 105] 


as big as pumpkins, and pumpkins as big as 

Walking with him in a very narrow path 
I remarked that if we were to meet a snake 
(for such creatures were often seen there), we 
should probably both jump. 'Jump!' he ex- 
claimed, with a grimace of comic terror. 'Bet- 
ter than that. If I were to meet a snake in 
this path I should instantly solve the problem 
of aerial navigation.' 

So forceful was his utterance at this moment, 
so alert his look, and so emphatic his gestures 
that the effect was irresistible. He stood poised 
on tip-toe, arms spread, as if ready to start. I 
could almost see him winging his way through 

He enjoyed a figure of speech drawn from 
the flight of birds and once entertained the 
dinner-table by likening himself to a migratory 
duck, honking as he went, flapping his wings, 
and 'beating the air with my webb-ed feet.' 
He elaborated the conceit with a wealth of 
[ 106 ] 


detail. It may not have been good natural 
history but it was immense fun. 

The witty turn he gave many an idea was 
due merely to his expressing it with verbal 
neatness and throwing it into high relief by 
spirited exaggeration. Here is an illustration. 
A fugitive from New England justice, after 
hiding for two or three years in the Northwest, 
was captured and brought back for trial. He 
is said to have told the officer that the happiest 
moment of his life was when he again caught 
sight of the dome of the State House. 'Cer- 
tainly,' said Miller, when he heard the anec- 
dote ; * the true Bostonian ! Better to be in j ail 
in Charlestown than free on the Dakota border.* 

He was never happier than on those not rare 
occasions when he was making jests about 
oneseK to oneself. I remember showing him a 
ticket issued for a course of my lectures in a 
little Pennsylvania town. On the back of the 
ticket the local druggist had advertised his 
wares, laying marked emphasis on the soda- 


fountain. Having examined the bit of paste- 
board carefully, first on the one side and then 
on the other, Miller returned it with the remark 
*Two kinds of fizz.' 

He thought me inclined at times to be over- 
critical of individual members of our circle. (It 
is perhaps superfluous to point out that he was 
in this particular wholly mistaken.) At a break- 
fast-party at the Glen I had voiced my feeling 
in terms not too strong, but certainly stronger 
than he himself would have used. There fol- 
lowed a brief silence while he loaded his gun to 
deliver this shot: 'Leon enjoys only one thing 
more than damning his acquaintance, and that 
is, damning his friends/ 

Yet he was himself an adept in the art of 
chastising those he loved, and he frequently 
exercised his art. Once when he had been 
tremendously emphatic over the conduct of 
a common friend, feeling himself aggrieved 
thereby, Mrs. Vincent genially remonstrated 
with, 'But, Jahu, our hearts are loyal.' 
[ 108 ] 


*Yes,* he retorted with great energy, *but 
our intellects are free.' 

I brought him the important news that one 
of his professional coadjutors had declared 
publicly that for his part he stood in no fear 
whatever of the Day of Judgment. *He says 
that out of pure bravado,' explained Miller. 
*But also he is of a most sanguine tempera- 
ment; he hopes that in the scramble of the 
resurrection morning he can get away.' 

When told that this same brother of the plat- 
form, who was on the eve of sailing for Europe, 
would share a stateroom with the proprietor 
of the Eden Mus6e, Miller said, chuckling, * An 
exhibitor of curiosities and the thing itself!' 

Speaking of an extraordinary grouping of 
books that had met his eye. Miller observed, 
*The next time I visit the gentleman's library 
I shall expect to find In a Club Corner classified 
under calisthenics.' The last part of the above 
sentence is, by the way, a good example of our 
friend's use of assonance and alUteration. 
[ 109 ] 


The question came up as to whether a certain 
professor, a well-read man with a fairly good 
voice and no pretensions to beauty, would 
make a better appearance on the platform with, 
or without, his eye-glasses. Miller promptly 
voted for his retaining them, on the ground 
that *They make an important feature of 
the scholastic face-scape.' But it was finally 
decided by this irreverent self-appointed com- 
mittee that if the professor were to ask them 
what he had better do, they would recommend 
as delicately as possible his speaking from 
behind a screen. 

Seeing an actor walking arm in arm with a 
minister. Miller characterized the situation (to 
another actor) with the phrase, * Apotheosis of 
the stage — downfall of the clergy.' 

The advertising cards in street-cars and else- 
where often led to his making a droll remark, 
one of the sort that pleases for the moment and 
is expected to be, and generally is, forgotten the 
next moment. * A cannibal would like that,' 
[ 110 ] 


he said, indicating the picture of a very plump, 
red-cheeked little girl, supposed to have been 
fattened on a particular brand of soup, and 
beneath the picture the legend, *Add a little 
hot water and serve.' And again, when passing 
a clothing-store his eye caught the words 
* Lazarus, Spring Suits,' Miller remarked with 
a smile, * Lazarus is properly celebrating his 

Having undertaken, four or five years ago, 
to write a brief sketch of him for a paper edited 
by his friend Paul Pearson, a paper devoted to 
the interests of the lecture-platform, I asked 
Miller if he would stand by what I said. * Yes,' 
he replied cheerfully, *or fall.' 

Very little of this sort of thing, which made 
ordinary intercourse with him so entertaining, 
is to be found in his letters. There were occa- 
sions, however, which moved him to be pointed, 
such as the following: — 

For the enlightenment of his middle age, as a 
novelist phrases it, Dewitt Miller numbered 
[ 111 ] 


among the rather large cu-cle of his intimates a 
few who aspired to authorship. He was kept 
quite busy discipHning them from time to 
time. That his enemy had published a book, or 
any number of books, concerned Miller not in 
the least. But when his friend published one 
he felt the opportunity to be glorious. It was 
certainly glorious for him. He had * laughter 
for a month,' and a good jest, not indeed for- 
ever, but quite long enough. He wrote one 
literary aspirant who had recently come out in 
print, urging him to bring suit without delay 
against a certain journal noted for the pun- 
gency of its criticisms; there had indeed been 
no formal review, nor was likely to be, but the 
author had a strong case for all that. The new 
volume was announced under the heading, 
*Books of the Weak.' 

The saying is not new, but the variations he 

contrived to play on the idea were, and their 

number past counting. He salved the wounds 

he made by freely buying the books, and by 

[ 112] 


speaking well of them behind the author's 
back. And when he could not speak well he 
might be trusted so to becloud his real opinion 
with large words and syntactical involutions 
that it was as good as a compliment, or even 
better. All of which he did from sheer kind- 
ness of heart. 

His joy knew no bounds when these presen- 
tation copies turned up again, this time for 
sale. He gave a copy of a harmless essay writ- 
ten by one of his friends to a certain lady- 
novelist, having written therein an elaborate 
inscription according to his wont. Some weeks 
later he found it in a second-hand book-shop 
and promptly bought it. The book was placed 
among his treasures and decorated with a 
second inscription of which one striking phrase 
is, * Stale bread returning.' 

Since it was his fate to have friends who 
wrote books. Miller was blessed in their disin- 
clination, or their inability, to write much. No 
one of them has ever achieved a work in several 
[ 113] 


volumes. An anecdote was told in his presence 
of a voluminous man of letters who had sent an 
entire set of his works to a business acquaint- 
ance, a stationer, and had not heard from them 
yet, though many months had passed. Miller 
thought it not difficult to divine the use to 
which the books had been put. * Nevertheless,' 
he said, *the recipient was bound to make an 
acknowledgment in one form or another. How 
would this do? "Dear Sir: We regret that the 
superintendent at the paper-mill should have 
so overlooked his obligation. We distinctly 
advised him to acknowledge the waste you 

The listeners all agreed that the letter would 
*do,' and such of them as were authors pri- 
vately rejoiced that they had never published 
sets of books, only single volumes, and those at 
long intervals. 

Miller's fondness for quip was apparent 
from many of his inscriptions in books. Here 
is a characteristic example of his skill in 
[ 114 ] 


mingling praise and blame. A gentleman, 
noted among his associates for an extreme 
reluctance to take pen in hand, received from 
Miller one Christmas a copy of FitzGerald's 

Letters, in which was written, *To H , 

these models of a form of literature at which 
his own presumptive expertness is shamefully- 
defeated by a total lack of inclination.' 

The following sportive inscription was writ- 
ten in a pocket-speller which he had bought 
to meet the peculiar need of three of us, him- 
self and two other notorious ori:hographical 
sinners. *For the use of F. B. W., who has 
genius but who can't spell; and of L. H. V., 
who certainly has talent and possibly genius, 
but who can't spell, and of J. D. M., who has 
neither talent nor genius, but who can spell 
better than either of the above — and yet can't 

For a last illustration — this time of his 
more boisterous style — we may take what he 
wrote in a copy of the first edition of Leaves of 
[ 115] 


Grass. *To H , this book, which if occa- 
sionally erotic, is never neurotic, nor tommy- 
rotic' Differ as we may about the soundness 
of the critical dictum we can hardly dispute 
the liveliness of its phrasing. 


The following anecdotes illustrative of our 
friend's odd ways, and of his many original 
and charming traits, are set down as they have 
occurred to the writer, that is to say, pretty 
much at random. 

Miller was averse to shaking hands, and he 
also disliked the conmion forms of salutation 
and leave-taking, holding them to be both awk- 
ward and meaningless. For complete vapidity 
he thought nothing could match the phrase, 
* Well, good-bye, see you later.' A man might 
better bolt and say nothing than sink so low as 
to say that. 

For his part he often bolted; you knew that 
he was going and haK an hour afterward you 
were aware that he was gone. He could not be 
said to steal away *like the Arabs,' — he was 
too bulky for that, and carried too much lug- 
gage, — but he admired that unconventional 


way of getting rid of oneself and to some extent 
practised it. 

Arriving after a period of months at a house 
where he was eagerly expected he would greet 
his host with *I was amused at this, I was 
amused at this,' — followed by a gurgle of 
laughter and the account of some absurd in- 
cident that he had witnessed in the street, or 
that had befallen him on the train. 

Another time the greeting might possibly 
take this form : * Just met old Jabez Smith as I 
was leaving the station. Have n't seen him in 
thirty years. Absolutely unchanged, ab-so- 
lutely. Same fringe of long white hair at the 
base of his skull — hair so white and so fine 
that it must take at least ten of his hairs to 
make a unit. . . . Jabez Smith! You never 
heard of him, of course, but if I 'm not greatly 
mistaken Jabez Smith married Philander Do- 
little's wife's niece. He was attorney-general 
under' — And so on, and so forth, save that 
the names would be those of real characters, 
I 118 ] 

Mr. Miller is persuaded to leave the task of ' buffeting 
his books,' put on his famous white beaver hat and come 
out into the sunshine to be kodaked. 

Photo, by Katherine Agnew Martin {Mrs. Cerf). 


people of importance in their day, the gene- 
alogical affiliations correctly traced, and the 
illustrative anecdotes told in a highly enter- 
taining manner. 

A guest who announces himseK in this un- 
usual style saves his host much trouble. The 
business of social life begins at once. No time 
is wasted by the pair in asking about the state 
of each other's health, or in bewailing the de- 
cline of the lecture-platform. 

When Miller arrived at any house he always 
came bearing gifts. He was benevolent uncle- 
at-large to a vast circle of acquaintance. These 
free-will offerings had to be paid for out of the 
proceeds of his work, and he never mastered 
the simple truth that, his income remaining 
about the same from year to year, the more he 
gave the less he would have. 

His relation to money was peculiar. He 
seemed to feel that he had no right to annoy a 
dollar by impeding its natural tendency to cir- 
culate. Money bounded off him, so to say. 
I 119 J 


Rigid moralists would certainly have denomi- 
nated him 'spendthrift.' He was not quite 
that. The spendthrift, I take it, is the man 
who wastes his money on private and question- 
able pleasures, who drinks it up, or gambles it 
away, or devotes it to making a vain show. 
One third of Dewitt Miller's money was ap- 
plied to no baser purpose than the giving of 
pleasure to his friends. With the remaining 
two thirds he bought a few clothes, many 
books, and no end of railway tickets. 

A lady who knew him well and understood 
him thoroughly reminds me that in his giving 
the cost of the gift counted in no particular; 
it was all one to him whether he had paid fif- 
teen dollars or fifteen cents for that which he 
now relinquished to another's keeping. Here 
is an illustration of his princely generosity, and 
incidentally of the way in which his money 
went. He was showing me the Sidney Lee re- 
print of the First Folio of Shakespeare's Plays, 
to which he had been an original subscriber, 
[ 120 ] 


demanding that I admire it properly; he would 
accept in behalf of the splendid volume no 
luke-warm tribute from a man who read, and 
professed to admire, Shakespeare. *A nice 
book,' he said, patting the cover, 'a very nice 

The next day he astonished me by saying, 
* Do you care for that Sidney Lee? If you do 
I'll give it to you. / don't care in the least 
for it.' 

Having often remonstrated with him about 
his incurable habit of playing tricks with his 
library by giving away the only copy he owned 
of this or that book, I remonstrated once more. 
He made no reply, but it was quite clear from 
his manner that he had determined to part 
with the folio. He was a frequent victim of 
such obsessions, and costly they were to him, 
and highly profitable to others. 

*But I know how it will result,' I said, con- 
cluding my lecture; 'if I don't take the book 
you will give it to some one else.' 
[ 121] 


* Possibly so.' 

* In the circumstances I think it best to take 
it/ And I did. 

With a cackle of joy over the feebleness of 
my opposition he got the book down and wrote 
on the fly-leaf a note to the effect that it was 
given me in commemoration of my fiftieth 
birthday, which, happily, had not then arrived. 

This should be the end of the story, and is 
not. He bethought himself of his friend at 
*The Orchard,' to whom he was under obliga- 
tions a thousand-fold greater than to me, and 
into whose keeping if anyone's a copy of the 
Shakespeare should go. He lost no time in put- 
ting himself right with himself in that quarter. 
Lastly, he repented in secret of having said 
that he did not care for the book for his own 
library. So he must needs buy a third copy, 
otherwise he might not have felt quite com- 
fortable. Three copies at fifty dollars a copy ! 
Small wonder that his dollars lingered with him 
for such brief periods of time. 
[ 122 ] 


Miller had no knowledge of music, and little 
or none of painting and sculpture. A popular 
tune, and that not always of the baser sort, 
often caught his fancy, and he might be heard 
humming a bar or two as he worked among his 
books. That the melodies of Arthur Sullivan 
were not as those of the mob of comic-opera 
composers he well understood, and he endorsed 
a friend's description of them as 'witty.' 

But even the best of music gave him no acute 
pain. He never wished, with Doctor Johnson, 
that a difficult piano-piece had been so diffi- 
cult as to be impossible. When his friend J. P. 
Lawrence played some grandiose work by 
Schumann or Moszkowski he always listened 
with an air of interest and often made an appo- 
site comment. He relished Lawrence's phrase 
descriptive of the art of an able but athletic 
pianist: *He plays the polonaises of Chopin 
as if he were killing a steer. How he does 
lambaste them!' 

He never spoke of paintings other than por- 


traits, and these he knew best through transla- 
tions into black and white, the photographs 
and engravings. He was devoted to Tenniel, 
and thought all efforts to make new illustra- 
tions for Alice in Wonderland should be dis- 
couraged. The striking symbolical drawings 
which E.J. Sullivan did for an edition of Sartor 
Resartus greatly appealed to him. When he 
would be merry he turned over the pages of 
Lewis Carroll's Rhyme? or Reason? to enjoy for 
the twentieth time the unspeakable droUness 
of A. B. Frost's ghost pictures. He was also 
pleased with the saintly expressions worn by 
the little beasts who figure in The Rubaiyat of 
a Persian Kitten by Oliver Herford. Of the 
twenty drawings in Max Beerbohm's The 
Poets' Corner (that singular mixture of the 
extremely good and the extraordinarily bad), 
he preferred the one in which little Miss Mary 
Augusta asks her uncle, Matthew Arnold, 
why it is that he will not be 'always wholly 

[ 124 ] 


Political caricature, both English and Amer- 
ican, he thoroughly enjoyed, and the artist had 
no need to be celebrated who should win his 
praise; he was quick to find out the merit that 
may easily be detected in the work of quite 
obscure men. 

Miller was a mighty reader of the news- 
papers, especially devoted to the New York 
* Tribune,' the *Sun,' the 'Evening Post,' the 
Boston 'Transcript,' and the Springfield 'Re- 
publican.' He was never without all five, if 
they could be had, and he was familiar with 
almost every other journal of note in the larger 
cities of the East and the Middle West. Regu- 
larly as the first of the year approached he 
placed with an agent his subscription for the 
London (weekly) 'Times,' the 'Athenaeum' 
and the 'Spectator,' the (English) 'Bookman,' 
'Punch,' the New York 'Nation,' the 'Out- 
look,' the 'Christian Advocate,' and the San 
Francisco 'Argonaut.' To this list should be 
added three or four country newspapers which 
[ 125 ] 


he took *for old sake's sake.' Even then it 
may be doubted whether the list is quite com- 
plete. One does not exaggerate in saying that 
throughout this mass of printed paper no para- 
graph that he was directly or remotely inter- 
ested in escaped his eye. 

He generally read scissors in hand, and would 
clip and clip like an exchange editor. Many of 
the clippings were kept for his own scrap-books, 
the others were enclosed in stamped envelopes 
and addressed to the large number of people 
throughout the country with whom he aimed 
to keep in touch. If you were interested in 
Ruskin, or Disraeli, or the Parsees, or shrimps, 
or Salem Gibraltars, or the origin of the term 
* sea-puss,' he remembered that you were, re- 
membered it for years; and everythmg that 
came his way relating to these topics, went 
your way by the earliest post. One gentleman, 
supposed to be in need of humorous paragraphs 
and samples of native American wit, found 
them coming to him by the dozens and for 
[ 126 ] 


months on end. "When finally they ceased to 
arrive, the gentleman remarked that * Miller 
must be suffering from an attack of clipper's 

For letters Miller often substituted press- 
clippings or longer articles cut from magazines. 
When once you had learned to interpret the 
signs the mode of conmiunication did very well. 
You knew from the odd left-handed writing 
who was your correspondent. The postmark 
showed that he was in Vicksburg, or Winnipeg, 
or Carson City, and that he had thought of you 
in your dreary place of exile in New York or 
Washington. That he had thought to some 
purpose you knew from the enclosure, which 
related to a point you had discussed with him 
or a topic you were perennially interested in. 
That is all there was of it, but considering the 
multitude of the sendings and the care shown 
in allotting each his proper scrap of print, can 
one say that it was a little thing to do? We 
sometimes grew aweary of correspondence by 
[ 127 ] 


scissors and longed for letters. Would that we 
had the clippings now ! 

Our friend could write an excellent letter, 
— though he was neither a FitzGerald nor 
a Lowell, — but he did not always take the 
time to be expansive and chatty. Hundreds of 
his letters were no more than telegrams sent by 
post, highly condensed and the words docked 
as much as possible, 'sh' meaning shall or 
should, 'wh' standing for who, which, what 
and when, and 'th' made to do duty for this, 
these, that, those, they, then, the definite arti- 
cle and two or three more words. Neverthe- 
less, Miller always played fairly in the game 
of letter-writing. When his correspondents 
took pains he took pains, and on that score 
they were generally in his debt. 

No other man got quite so much satisfac- 
tion as he out of the contents of his post-bag. 
Anyone who has been much with him will 
remember the gusto with which he would say, 
'Nice long letter from Colonel Higginson this 
[ 128 ] 


morning,* or it might be from Professor Nor- 
ton, or Mrs. Howe, from any one, in short, of 
the rather numerous body of people whom he 
contrived to interest in him chiefly by means 
of his sincere, helpful, and intelligent interest 
in their work and themselves. How he first 
learned that Thomas Hughes had a hankering 
for examples of all the pirated American edi- 
tions of Tom Brown's School-Days cannot 
now be told, but the Englishman had reason 
to be glad that Miller did learn the fact. In 
some such way as this were many of these 
epistolary relations established. One of the 
last letters that came to him across the water 
was from a member of the Hope family to 
whom he had written with the idea of clearing 
up an obscure point about Thomas Hope and 
'Deepdene.' No great light was, or could be, 
thrown on the obscure point, but the letter 
itself, a model of courtliness and good episto- 
lary English, delighted the recipient. 

In his dealings with London booksellers 


Miller enjoyed no feature more than the cor- 
respondence. When their letters arrived, so 
punctilious in tone, worded with exceeding 
care, and written always with pen and ink 
in a clerkly hand, he would read them aloud 
to an accompaniment of 'ventral laughs' and 
contrast this elegant way of doing business 
with the American letter-received-and-con- 
tents-noted style. 

One last trait apropos of letters and letter- 
writing. Miller rather freely shared the con- 
tents of his post-bag with friends and even 
acquaintances. For a man of peculiar fineness 
and delicacy, who could be, if the need were, 
as close-mouthed as the Sphinx, he has been 
known to display a childlike want of reserve in 
the matter of letters. He was always a good 
deal of a boy, and this is how one sometimes 
found it out. No harm came of his frankness 
that one can recall, but many a laughable com- 


He was mindful of birthdays and other an- 
niversaries both great and small. You might 
think that for once he had forgotten, but no ; 
before nightfall the telegram which had failed 
you at breakfast-time made its appearance. 
It usually came out of the West, from Iowa, 
Nebraska, South Dakota, Oklahoma, or Texas. 
The phrasing was always ingenious, and if 
sometimes a little stilted was the more charac- 
teristic on that account. Miller could be very 
felicitous in the compass of ten words. 

As a matter of course he did not carry all 
these dates in his head. He had a couple of 
birthday-books, and these little volumes with 
their fatally exact entries were always within 
reach. Trusting ladies, who in youth had im- 
parted to him the secret of their natal day and 
year, sometimes thought they had reason to 
deplore having done so when fifteen or eighteen 
[ 131 ] 


anniversaries had rolled by. But Miller was 
never known to make an ungenerous use of his 

At Christmas time there was a great out- 
pouring of gifts, books for the most part, and 
subscriptions to certain magazines and week- 
lies, the 'Century,' *Scribner's,' 'Life,' and two 
or three journals of a civilized and civilizing 
character. He had the odd habit of anticipat- 
ing dates. You got your Christmas offering 
some months before it was due. There was 
more of reason in the practice than at first 
sight appears. The holiday season often found 
him in remote parts of the country where large 
book-shops were not, and he liked a great and 
varied stock from which to choose. 

There was also a measure of harmless eccen- 
tricity in the practice. It is unusual to bestow 
gifts in this manner, and our open-handed 
friend preferred the unusual way of doing 
things. There lies before me as I write the first 
of the sixteen volumes of Horace Walpole's 
[ 132] 


Letters, in the superb and costly Clarendon 
Press edition, with an inscription in Miller's 
rather curious hand. The set of books was 
given to two of us, in honor of what one of the 
two regards as the most fortunate event of his 
life. The volumes came into our possession 
eighteen months since, and four years have yet 
to elapse before the arrival of the particular 
anniversary which the gift is intended to mark. 
Miller parted with his small possessions so 
readily that it was unsafe to comment on any- 
thing he had that struck your eye ; you might 
be compelled to take it away with you. His 
trick of purchasing the articles he liked in du- 
plicate (if not by the dozen) made it convenient 
for him to give; nothing could have made it 
easier. He had a taste for folding-scissors of a 
particular make, and always kept a supply of 
them on hand for the benefit of acquaintances 
who could appreciate the attention. Every now 
and then one meets a member of the tribe of va- 
grant lecturers whom Miller has distinguished 


by bestowing on him a pair of folding-scissors. 
There are so many of us that we might form an 
association of quite respectable size and, we 
trust, of not a little collective ability. 

Other animals besides those of the himian 
race were the objects of Miller's benevolence. 
He delighted in parrots, squirrels, cats, and 
dogs, and had a profound respect for a horse. 
I well remember his satisfaction when the high- 
bred Angora cat that dwelt at the Glen jumped 
on his knee for the first time of its own accord ; 
he had not looked for so great an honor. His 
face beamed as he stroked the little creature's 
head with his ample hand. They made a comi- 
cal pair of comrades. Miller being so very large 
and the cat so exceedingly small. 

Two or three of his cat-friends always re- 
ceived at Christmas time postal money-orders 
(made out in the name of their respective mas- 
ters), to the end that they might properly 
celebrate the day with extra portions of cream 
or chunks of liver. On the occasion of his last 
[ 134 ] 


visit to Boston he insisted on leaving fifty cents 
to buy holiday meats for the cat that guards 
the Old South book-shop. He became inter- 
ested in the account of a superb Angora of 
marked personality that two of his friends had 
met at a tea-room in Cambridge, England. 
* William' was the animal's name. Miller pro- 
posed writing a letter as from Leary's cat in 
Philadelphia to 'William of Cambridge.' I be- 
lieve he never carried out the project; his 
friends were not perfectly sure that William's 
owners would see the humor of the thing. 

He usually spoke to the dogs he met in his 
walks, whether he knew them or not. His com- 
mon form of salutation was, 'How do you do, 
sir? How do you do? ' always with an empha- 
sizing and prolonging of the first word. And 
the animals never failed to show how they did, 
in so far as they could express their thoughts by 
eye and tail. With the various dogs that reigned 
at 'The Orchard,' or governed divers dog duke- 
doms at Forest Glen — Dan the Saint Bernard, 
[ 135] 


Teufel the alert terrier, Taffy the Pomeranian 
of impenetrable coat, the gentle Balribbie, 
Jeames Pitbladdo the Super-demonstrative, 
and the laughable Raggetty with one lop ear 
— he was on terms of intimacy. 

Of the parrot belonging to his sister, as well 
as of other parrots, he had always a variety of 
stories to tell. He aspired to become almoner 
to the squirrels that frisked about the Library, 
and to this end provided boxes of nuts for their 
comfort, which the small boys of the neighbor- 
hood promptly emptied. ' If I catch the little 
rascals at it,' said Miller, ahnost red in the 
face, 'I'll dust their jackets for them.' The 
truth is that he would have done nothing of 
the sort; at the worst he would have exhorted 
them, in terms they could not possibly have 

He took such keen delight in a multitude of 

homely and familiar objects and activities that 

one never thinks of him as requiring what is 

called amusement or diversion. Time never 

[ 136 ] 


hung heavy on his hands, and in his calendar 
a dull day would have been a phenomenon. 
There was one sophisticated form of entertain- 
ment, however, in which he indulged freely in 
his young manhood. Miller played neither 
chess nor whist, nor yet billiards, but he liked 
a good dramatic performance. From chance 
remarks of his I take him to have been an ar- 
dent admirer of Edwin Booth, and quite incap- 
able of losing any opportunity to hear the great 
tragedian. For Joseph Jefferson and Mrs. John 
Drew he had immense admiration. Mrs. Gil- 
bert and James Lewis were among his favor- 
ites, and in Richard Mansfield's art he took 
the keenest interest. Among living players of 
marked gifts there were few with whose work 
he had not some acquaintance. Were I to 
hazard a guess as to the sort of comedy he most 
enjoyed I should say pieces like *Lord Chum- 
ley' and *Trelawny of the Wells.' Also *The 
Professor's Love Story' and *The Middleman.' 
But he had a cathoUc taste and did not shrink 


from the most harrowing of dramas provided 
the art was good. 

At one time in his life he enjoyed whiling 
away an hour at a vaudeville show. The speech 
of a clever black-faced monologist always di- 
verted him, and he maintained that real gen- 
ius was often displayed in the composition and 
delivery of these pieces. He preferred to this 
a real sleight-of-hand performance, as show- 
ing to what a pitch of perfection the human 
muscles could be trained. Feats of combined 
strength and agility, in the doing of which the 
performers seemed to defy and set aside the 
laws of physics, always attracted him. 

For the musical part of the performance he 
did not greatly care, though he often told how 
he heard perhaps the first public rendition of a 
song describing the adventures of an Irishman 
who went to the bottom of the sea in his Sun- 
day clothes and was believed to have got ex- 
ceedingly wet, and how he (Miller) prophesied 
at the time an enormous popularity for the song. 
[ 138 ] 


Whenever he went to these places of miscel- 
laneous amusement Miller fortified himself 
against boredom by taking along two or three 
journals or weeklies; he well knew what inani- 
ties might face him from behind the foot-lights. 
Once as he sat in the front row, his eyes bent on 
a copy of the * Nation' that lay on his knee, a 
comedian of the dull but assertive type, using 
a low but perfectly distinct tone of voice, in- 
terpolated in his speech the words, *0h, come, 
put up your newspaper and listen.* 

Without lifting his head Miller responded, 
in a tone quite as low and quite as distinct, 
*When anything is uttered on the stage that 
seems to merit my attention I shall be happy 
to do so.' 

Being asked by the friend to whom he told 
the incident whether the audience laughed. 
Miller replied, * I doubt whether any one heard 
me, but I observed that members of the orches- 
tra were diverted.' 

The anecdote suggests a number of others 


for which room cannot possibly be made. 
These unrelated points have been taken from a 
note-book crowded to the margins, and the 
best one can hope to do is to print such illus- 
trations of our friend's ways as seem distinc- 
tive, and will help the reader in calling up the 
features he himseK likes best to remember. 
For example, no account of Miller would be 
complete that failed to mention his enthusiasm 
on the subject of the care of the body. 

Yet he was not, as might be inferred, a fre- 
quenter of gymnasiums or fencing schools or 
riding academies. The only systematic physi- 
cal exercise I have ever known him to take was 
walking. He was strong on his feet and seem- 
ingly good for any mmiber of miles. I cannot 
recall a time when he gave signs of being tired 
from walking. He would sweat prodigiously 
during this exercise, and if he did not exactly 
'lard the lean earth' after the manner of Fal- 
staff, he came near to doing so. Among his 
firm convictions was this, that his always ex- 
[ 140 ] 


cellent health might be largely attributed to 
the ease with which he perspired. 

He walked with so rapid a step that it was 
trying work to keep up with him. When three 
or four were of the party he was half the time 
yards ahead of the others, finding a moderate 
pace difficult and sauntering impossible. When 
sunmioned to halt so that all might get to- 
gether, he would stand and mark time, as if he 
positively must find an outlet for his superflu- 
ous energy. 

In certain ways he gave much attention to 
the care of his health, had himseK examined 
from time to time by one of his friends in the 
medical profession, and might be seen on rare 
occasions taking minute quantities of medi- 
cine — so minute that you wondered whether 
his system knew that anything was being done 
to it. * Doctor Hatfield,' he would say (or it 
might be Doctor Faught), 'discovers that I 
have a slight tendency to something-or-other, 
and he is correcting it.' He was never as vague 
[ 141 ] 


as this, however, and rolled out scientific ter- 
minology in quite a learned manner. 

On the other hand Miller may be said to 
have paid a minimum amount of attention to 
hygienic laws, for he took all sorts of liberties 
with himself, ate anything he pleased, often the 
strangest combinations of viands, and declared 
that the surest way to catch something was 
to go in constant fear of catching it. What a 
naive thing he could do on occasion the follow- 
ing anecdote will show. While lecturing in 
Tennessee and Kentucky during the rainy 
month of February he caught a hard cold. The 
physician whom he consulted in Cincinnati 
said to him, 'Mr. Miller, you are dressed too 
warmly. This overcoat you are wearing is 
heavier than you need.' Miller at once dis- 
carded the garment, bought a much lighter 
overcoat, and went up among the deep snow- 
drifts of central and northern Michigan to fill 
his engagements there. 

It was a novel way of curing a cold, and 
[ 142 ] 


proved effective in his case. He seemed to his 
friends the embodiment of physical health. 
One who knew him well for many years said, 
*I expected Miller to bury us all, lament our 
departure in his brotherly but philosophical 
style, and go right on placidly collecting books 
until he was eighty-five or ninety.' 


He spent the month of May, 1911, at Forest 
Glen, with his friends and his books, and was 
in perfect health and the best of spirits. Wher- 
ever one saw him — in the private dining-room 
with Mr. Cassedy during the long after-dinner 
talks that both men enjoyed so much; at the 
joyful Sunday morning breakfasts with Mr. 
and Mrs. Partington; in numberless chats with 
other favorites of his among the faculty, Miss 
Priest, Miss Munford, and Miss Bomberger; 
at the many entertainments the season brings 
— one saw an entirely happy man. It is be- 
lieved now that he had some private worries; 
if so, he knew how to conceal them. 

His summer plans included a trip to the 
Pacific coast, with two lectures at Boise, Idaho, 
en route. Not being due in the West until early 
July he outstayed the other guests of the Glen 
household. True to his lifelong habit he took 


the latest train that would ensure his arriving 
on time at the point where the first lecture 
was to be given. The hot and wearing jour- 
ney may have told on him, seasoned traveller 
though he was. 

After the lectures at the Boise Chautauqua 
he was found to be in no state to continue his 
journey and the California engagements were 
cancelled. By the advice of the physician, 
Doctor Smith, he removed from the hotel to 
Saint Luke's Hospital. Self-willed as always, he 
packed his suit-case with his own hands and 
carried it down stairs to the hotel-office. The 
news of his illness was wired to Forest Glen, 
and thence to other points. Mr. Cassedy took 
prompt measures to secure Miller's entire free- 
dom from worries of a financial sort. Telegrams 
of sympathy poured in upon him, and a num- 
ber of the friends he loved most offered to go to 
him at once if they could be of service. He 
declined gratefully their help; it was a long 
journey to Idaho, and he was * doing well.' 


There was certainly no lack of sympathetic 
care or of skillful treatment on the part of 
the excellent people into whose hands he had 

It is worth noting as typical of Miller's 
thoughtfulness that he would not allow the 
hospital note-paper to be used when word was 
sent to his sister; he was particularly anxious 
that she should not be unduly alarmed. 

All who had to do with the case believed 
that his recovery was only a question of time 
and care, and that in a few weeks he would be 
on his feet again. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson had 
planned to bring him to their bungalow at Lake 
Mahopac as soon as he was able to make the 
journey, and he looked forward with eagerness 
to the weeks of convalescence there. He pen- 
cilled a few notes to a number of his intimates. 
I have one that was written three days before 
he died. 'I'm getting along,' he says, * though 
there be days that are very wearisome, and 
nights that have no mornings.' 
[ 146 ] 


Heart-failure was the immediate cause of his 
death. He literally slept himself away in the 
night (July 29, 1911). His physician could 
hardly believe it possible, when the news was 
telephoned him; he had convinced himself 
that if any patient could get well this patient 

Our friend was buried from the little Metho- 
dist Church of Katonah, New York, on the 
afternoon of August 7. All the arrangements 
for the service and the flowers (there was a 
wealth of them) fell to the care of Mr. and Mrs. 
Wilson. On them too devolved the most try- 
ing duty of all — making known to Mrs. Webb 
the news of her loss. Needless to say, it was 
discharged with perfect tact and delicacy. The 
flag on the viUage green was at half-mast, for 
Miller was known there and beloved. Friends 
came from distant points : Mr. Cassedy, Miss 
Priest, and Mr. Partington from Forest Glen, 
Doctor Wilbur L. Davidson and Mr. Paul 
I^mperly from Cleveland, the Reverend Mr. 


Hershey from Rochester, the Reverend Town- 
send Russell and Mrs. Russell from Washing- 

The service of the Episcopal Church was 
read by Mr. Russell, Mrs. Wilson sang, a 
prayer was offered by Mr. Davidson, and then, 
says my correspondent, came the farewell * in 
*the unaffected and tender words of Francis 
* Wilson, that made the heart beat fast almost 
*to breaking.' 

The Committal service was read at the grave 
in the little cemetery of Cross River by Mr. 
Russell, in the presence of these friends and of 
Miller's sister and grand-niece, his only sur- 
viving relatives. He lies near his father and 
mother. The granite boulder that is to mark his 
grave will bear a bronze tablet with the name 
and dates, and a stanza from Whittier's poem, 
*The Eternal Goodness,' — a poem which had 
often comforted him as it had comforted others 
in the turmoil of this life. 

His death can mean nothing to that great 
[ 148 ] 


world which he studied with unflagging inter- 
est for so many years, but what it means to 
those who knew him they alone are able to 



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